There could be many reasons behind the sudden disappearance of the dripping sound; perhaps the limited water supply here had been cut, or the copper pipes had frozen over in the deep night—however, the surroundings were too silent.
All of the minute sounds both inside and outside the cell had vanished.
It was dead silent.
Yu Feichen sat up with his back against the wall, taking out his lighter.
“Hss.” Fire sprung from the lighter, illuminating a corner of the cell.
One by one, he looked over the others sharing the cell.
Bai Song was frowning slightly; the chemistry teacher lay flat on the ground, both hands clasped in front of his chest as if in prayer; the frog-eating friar was curled up in a corner.
The thick darkness congealed, allowing the lighter to only illuminate a very restricted radius.
Yu Feichen got up and went over to the other side of the cell.
The other three people were sleeping in different positions; fortunately, their chests were still rising and falling gently.
They were asleep, and they alive.
He raised the lighter a little higher.
There was nothing on the ceiling.
From outside the small window, he could see the outline of a building in the night.
Then, he gazed across.
The greyish-white cement wall gave way to reveal a gaping black hole.
There wasn’t the barest sliver of light inside; it was the door to the lavatory.
Further beyond the lavatory, darkness swallowed the barracks, and he couldn’t make out anything.
Extinguishing the lighter, Yu Feichen believed that something had happened.
He wasn’t neurotic, and never hallucinated.
In the silent cell, he suddenly spoke.
“Is anyone awake?”
His echo rebounded from every corner, but the cell remained in a blanket of silence.
He spoke again.
—Silence answered him.
But three seconds later, Bai Song seemed to have been stirred by him, flipping over in his sleep.
Yu Feichen’s eyes keenly stared at the corner of the wall that was revealed after Bai Song flipped over.
He patted Bai Song on the shoulder.
This kid was a light sleeper.
After his shoulder was touched, he immediately snapped his eyes open.
Yu Feichen didn’t speak.
He flicked the lighter on again, drawing the flame close to that spot.
“Fu—” Bai Song promptly stopped the curse from escaping.
On the dreary grey concrete wall, there were three long, dark streaks, each varying in depth and length, heavy at the top right and lighter on the bottom left, like a brushstroke that ran out of paint.
Yu Feichen asked in a low voice.
“Was this here before?”
“I don’t know,” Bai Song said.
He paused before continuing to say, “I didn’t notice, I guess it shouldn’t have been.”
Yu Feichen didn’t speak.
Before going to bed, he had carefully surveyed the surroundings of the cell, and there wasn’t such a thing.
In the silence, Bai Song took a few deep breaths, suddenly reaching out his right hand and comparing his fingers against the wall.
The middle finger was thicker, and the little finger was slimmer, similar to the proportions of the marks on the wall.
“Holy.” Bai Song lay back down as if losing courage, moving further away from the wall.
He said, “Someone’s hands clawed out these streaks, will they really treat prisoners kindly?”
Just then, there was another stir in the cell.
It was that chemistry teacher named Gerold who had awakened from their conversation.
“Did something happen?” he asked.
“Nothing.” Yu Feichen reached out and his fingers passed through the iron bars of the gate.
He twisted the antique iron padlock in the other direction, turning the lock from its initial flat position to rest sideways against the gate.
After doing this, he said, “Go back to sleep.”
The chemistry teacher whispered a few prayers before going back to sleep with Bai Song.
Yu Feichen didn’t lay back down.
He only sat in a posture more convenient to get up at any moment, resting his eyes.
The air around him was silent as a grave, and this lasted for about five hours; when pale daylight sieved through the small window, then did the sound of dripping water resume.
Yu Feichen looked first towards the wall near Bai Song.
The mark had vanished, as if it had never existed.
And then he looked to the iron bars—
The iron lock, which he had placed on its side, was now laid flat against the gate, as if it had moved soundlessly by itself.
He took a deep breath, and ignored it, beginning to freshen up.
Though, there wasn’t much for him to do.
He simply neatened his hair and used that small, sharp blade to shave off the slight stubble that had formed on his face.
He wasn’t a person particularly concerned about outer appearances, but there were some things that he required to be kept orderly.
The occupants of the cell gradually awoke one after another.
The friar began his morning prayers.
From the scattered words, Yu Feichen could make out that the figure or god they believed in was called Yuryllia.
The chemistry teacher sat in a daze facing the wall, and the other big-nosed middle-aged man heaved a great sigh.
A brawny man with blonde hair was talking to a short-statured man.
“My ma got onto another truck,” he said.
“I don’t know how she’s doing now.”
Bai Song was still asleep.
The friar finished the tediously long prayers.
Bai Song was still asleep.
Sure enough, if startling awake from a light sleep in the middle of the night, one would fall into an unusually deep sleep for the remaining half of the night.
Expressionless, Yu Feichen stared at Bai Song’s sleeping form for three seconds before deciding to kick the boy awake.
—The door to the barracks creaked loudly.
A frigid winter breeze bored in, aerating the humidity formed from people cramped within the small space.
Although a chill bit into their bones, it refreshed the mind.
The footsteps of several people rang from the corridor.
Two people were flanked at the centre, and from the footfalls, one set was heavier than the other.
The heavier set fell down in shorter intervals, whereas the lighter set had a longer interval between each step.
It was obvious.
One man was heavier than the other; one man was shorter than the other.
“Get up, it’s time for inspections, frogs.” The warden’s shrill voice called out.
“Citizens of the God of Truth are already hard at work, but Korosha mongrels are still lazing in bed.
After we open the gates you’d better line up properly.
I want to reward each of you with a lash.”
Without a doubt, the heavier, shorter-legged man was the chief warden.
As for the other—
Yu Feichen crossed his arms, leaning against the wall of the cell.
He was watching Bai Song who slept like a corpse on the ground at first and hearing the sound, he raised his eyes slightly.
A pair of silver-buttoned black boots first entered his vision.
“Senior officer, right here.” The chief warden’s flattering voice was subtly laced with sarcasm.
“Those two cinder-eating mongrels disappeared from here.”
The young officer bent his body to inspect the lock.
His military uniform was the type with a long cloak, and gleaming silver tassel chains hung down from his shoulder to his chest, half-blocked by the long platinum blonde hair over his shoulders.
All in all, there was a neatness in him that was not commonly seen, out of place with the people around him.
Perhaps due to having just come from outside, a frosty chill emanated off him.
“What else happened that day?” he asked the chief warden.
“Nothing much, senior officer,” said the chief warden.
“When I shut the gates the previous day, the headcount was correct.
But the next day when I inspected the rooms, the people were gone, and the gate was still properly locked.”
“What about the others?” A cold gaze scanned the interior of the cell.
Colonel thought it a great disgrace that naughty snakes of Korosha actually managed to escape and asked the remaining few people.
They said that they had seen them before they slept but never heard anything after, and they were already gone by the time they woke up.” The chief warden laughed.
“They were covering up for the fugitives, and even wanted to clear themselves of blame.
Colonel killed them all.”
The chief warden went on to say, “But Tincloud mobilising someone to investigate two rogue snakes on the loose is overkill, senior officer.”
His senior officer only said three words.
“Open the gate.”
The chief warden awkwardly opened it, and two soldiers dressed differently from the area guards entered to search the room.
“Our barracks is watertight, there’s no way to escape.
That was just a one-off exception—” the chief warden rattled on and on, until the soldiers rummaged under an unused straw mat and found a bent piece of wire.
The soldier handed the wire to the senior official.
And he saw this man snap the padlock shut again, poke the wire into the hole.
Less than a few minutes later, the lock core clicked open.
The chief warden, who was standing outside, stammered.
“Uh, this… We still have another door outside, even if they got out using this method, they wouldn’t be able to get past the entrance door as well.”
Yu Feichen took in this scene before him.
The young officer was not only far better at polishing his gun than others, but his lock picking skills were also perfect.
With the arrival of the senior officer, the situation became a little clearer.
Two prisoners were missing from Oak Valley Detention Centre.
Despite the military guards at the detention centre waving it off as a trivial case, their superiors took it seriously enough to send someone to investigate—namely, this captain from Tin Cloud Military Academy.
However, after what happened last night, the incident of prisoners escaping might not be as simple as it appeared.
Yu Feichen thought this to himself, and his mission objective from the Gate of Eternal Night also required further reassessing.
“It’s a virtue to treat prisoners with kindness, Chief Warden.
Though I don’t yet know how your company conducts things in Oak Valley.” The young officer’s tone was cool.
The bite on his words was light, yet distinctively clear, carrying a certain tone of antiquity and nobleness.
“But if you are unable to restrain yourself, then at least do so with discretion.”
The chief warden wiped sweat from his forehead.
“We will raise our guard and not let a third person slip.”
“Someone who could pick the lock wouldn’t leave his tools under the bed.” Icy green eyes suddenly looked straight towards Yu Feichen.
“Did anything unusual happen last night?”
There was a brief silence.
“No,” Yu Feichen said.
And, in this manner, they stared at each other for several tense seconds, until the senior officer shifted his gaze away.
From beginning to the end, those eyes were as calm and transparent as a frozen lake in the winter.
“Search Oak Valley.” The senior officer turned around, the corner of his cloak lifting from his movements, leaving the cell with a cold chill.
The sound of their footfalls gradually faded away, and Bai Song had long awoken.
He stared at the disappearing silhouette of the senior officer as he left, then looked at Yu Feichen, and finally back at the corner of the wall.
He clearly remembered that there were three strange and sinister bloodstains on the wall.
But now that he looked again, the corner was very clean, leaving nothing at all.
Bai Song’s pupils were slightly lax.
“You… He… I… This…”
Driven by the guards, the prisoners lined up to go to the lavatory.
As he passed by Bai Song, Yu Feichen said in a low voice, “When we go to the brick kiln today, find a way to bring something back.
Anything will do.”
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