After bidding farewell to the young man, Meng Zheng walked briskly out of the streets and alleys.
As he left the neighborhood and was about to step onto the bustling street, he suddenly noticed something and quickly turned his head.
A golden-haired woman, dressed in a loose-fitting trench coat just like Meng Zheng, was standing against the wall, silently staring at him.
"Oh, my dear Mary, I didn't expect to find you here!"
Meng Zheng showed a warm smile and, in an exaggerated tone, opened his arms to embrace the woman.
"Don't be too conspicuous."
With a rough face full of freckles, a tall and thin woman of similar age to Meng Zheng frowned and pushed away his hand.
In a coastal city like Jinjiang City, foreigners like her, although not treated as aliens, still attracted curious glances when entering the old neighborhoods.
"We agreed to meet at the intersection ahead yesterday. Where did you go just now?"
"I went to buy lunch."
Mary shook the bag in her hand and pointed to the nearby KFC.
"Do you want to eat?"
"You rarely come here, and you're having this for lunch?" Meng Zheng chuckled, spreading his hands, "This is a country of delicacies! Didn't you do your homework before coming here?"
"I'm waiting for my local colleagues to treat me to dinner, Mr. Meng."
Mary shrugged, took out a hamburger from the bag, and made an unclear comment while nibbling on it.
"Well, the sauce and lettuce don't taste quite right."
"Now, you should understand how I felt when I saw the so-called 'General Tso's Chicken' served at those 'Chinese restaurants'?"
"Not really, it's just an ordinary hamburger. I can eat it no matter how it's made."
Mary licked the salad dressing on her hand and asked casually.
"So, did you find her? The daughter of that researcher."
"Not yet." Meng Zheng shook his head, "You came too quickly. I only started working in the local department a few days ago and didn't have time to look for her."
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"And if she has awakened, she should gradually notice the abnormalities in herself and not easily expose them in front of others."
"What were you doing just now? A walk after lunch?"
"It's the task assigned to me by the higher-ups, of course, I have to complete it properly."
Meng Zheng answered with a smile.
"And, I didn't come back empty-handed. If that little girl is still alive, she should be in high school now. I just happened to meet a high school student of similar age."
"Is that so?"
"But, it's a boy."
"Are you saying—"
Mary looked serious.
"Yes, that's right..."
"—Her father had her undergo gender reassignment surgery to hide her identity?"
"..." Meng Zheng was a bit speechless, "Miss Mary, I didn't expect you to be quite good at making jokes."
"Since you're not joking with me," Mary coldly asked, "why did you bring up a boy's matter with me?"
"I think the girl we're looking for is likely to have a connection with this boy."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure... in fact, I can say with almost absolute certainty."
Meng Zheng smiled in response.
This made Mary curious.
She was a little annoyed just now because she felt that the other party was deliberately avoiding the topic and making light of it. But since Meng Zheng was so certain, he must have his reasons.
"I went around and found traces of an A-level evil spirit causing a scene, but there was only him and a possessed person lying on the ground at the scene. Moreover, the evil spirit on the possessed person had been completely dispelled."
"Is this boy a medium of the same level as you?"
"No, that's the problem. I think he's just an ordinary spiritualist, and he wasn't registered before. So..."
Meng Zheng raised a finger with a smile.
"Without a doubt, someone helped him."
"Just because of this? Couldn't it be the official investigation team passing by, or a civilian who happened to see the situation?"
"If that's the case, this boy has no reason to hide anything from me, and this city isn't that big. Even if we include those who have to hide their identities, how many mediums can single-handedly dispel a high-level evil spirit in a short time? Even I can't say I'm completely sure. Besides, apart from our target having this potential, I can't think of anyone else. Also..."
Meng Zheng coughed and said seriously.
"I promised to introduce him to a pretty girl of the same age. A boy of this age showing no reaction at all must have a sweetheart already! It's ridiculous for someone so young to be in a relationship."
"...Don't easily project your own experiences onto others." Mary frowned, "Can't that boy, who is a diligent and studious student, just not be interested in dating?"
Meng Zheng thought for a moment and asked again."Speaking of which, what about you? You've been here for a while, you must have found something, right? I know which people are suspected of being possessed, that's why I rushed over. You should be better at this kind of thing than me. If you can sense a strong enough power..."
"After I received the message, I did try."
Mary replied calmly.
"But just as I was about to take action, I suddenly felt that someone was conducting a large-scale perception, and there was even a feeling of being suppressed. In order to avoid attracting attention, I simply gave up."
"That person's ability seems very strong." Meng Zheng stroked his chin, showing a pensive expression. "Could it be a type of evil spirit like you?"
"That's not clear." Mary shrugged. "Maybe it was done by that ordinary medium boy you mentioned."
"Don't joke around. How could an ordinary medium possibly do something like this?"
Meng Zheng sighed.
"Alright, alright. Whether that girl is our target or not, we still need Singh Kanna, the curry guy, to confirm. He's the only one who can know if the other party is really a 'diviner.'"
"If it's Singh, it's very likely that he will come with Long Po, and she is not on good terms with you. And more importantly..." Mary stared at the man in front of her, speaking in a low voice.
"—Long Po is far more powerful than you."
"Strength has its advantages, and weakness has its benefits."
Meng Zheng couldn't help but laugh.
"If it weren't for Miss Mary's weak combat power, do you think you would have been so easily allowed into the country?"
"Don't be angry, don't be angry," Meng Zheng quickly raised his hands in surrender. "Although your abilities are not suitable for direct combat, we all know that intelligence is often the key to victory. I really respect you, otherwise we wouldn't have been partners for so many years, right?"
"Hmph, instead of verbal respect, you should learn how to have a proper conversation with a lady."
Mary glared at the man, no one could be indifferent after being called "weak."
However, she knew that what the other party said was mostly correct.
Mary Osore and Meng Zheng were both members of a large academic organization called the "Stargazers," which was well-known in the world of international mediums.
It originated from a temporary conference-type organization formed by scientists from multiple countries. At that time, more than one of the temporary drafters of the organization's purpose had official backgrounds, and China, the Soviet Union, and the United States all played important roles; even the so-called "stargazing" in the organization's name was actually aimed at the first appearance of the "evil star" in the East, showing how closely connected they were.
In the late 1980s, it gradually transformed into a non-governmental international organization and established good cooperative relations with major countries.
As a member of the Stargazers, after going through rigorous inspection procedures, Mary Osore, who controlled an evil spirit that was not the type to excel in destruction, combat, and killing, was able to enter the country as a regular visiting scholar at Jinjiang University.
But even with all these reasons, she was still closely monitored during her free movement.
Meng Zheng was even more so. He had been preparing to return to China five years ago, and after dealing with various personnel and building relationships for several years, he was allowed to return to work.
On the other hand, if it were someone like Long Po, a top medium well-known internationally, it would probably not be so easy to enter the country... no, it might not even be possible to find such an opportunity.
"Whether they can come or not, we'll talk about it when the time comes."
"No, we can't wait for this matter." Meng Zheng smiled. "According to the timing of the prophecy, if we don't catch up before the end of this year, all your arrangements will be in vain."
"Then... what will you do if we really don't find anything?"
"Silly question. What does that have to do with me now? I'm just helping you out of consideration for my former colleagues."
Meng Zheng stretched lazily.
"For me, I really feel comfortable coming back here. Like a fallen leaf returning to its roots, who can resist the temptation of home?"
Mary snorted, clearly not believing it.
"Alright, no matter what, we need to part ways for now."
Meng Zheng's eyes casually glanced at the bustling intersection in the distance.
"If we talk for too long, some people might get impatient. And, we won't be able to meet and chat as freely as we do now in the future, you understand?"
Miss Mary nodded silently.
Even at this moment, it's likely that they are being watched by more than one pair of eyes.
They used to be colleagues in the Stargazers, and now that they are in the same city, if they don't find an excuse to meet, it's easy to raise suspicion.
But after this, it won't be so easy to be partners again.
Meng Zheng is fine, but Mary probably can't easily use her medium abilities.
"...We will meet again soon, this year."
He reminded the woman in a soft voice, his pupils shining brightly.
Need a moment?
No, no, he didn't like that term at all. It's too simple, not romantic enough.Meng Zheng only believed in one thing, that was the prophecy of the human doomsday, a legend about the terrifying king descending from the sky to destroy the world.
It sounded absurd, but he believed it without a doubt.
And regardless of whether the doomsday would come, it was beyond doubt that a new era was coming.
—In this world, sooner or later, everything would be turned upside down.
After that, Sunny Xu and Seigetsu Zhu bid farewell to Starry Lin and returned to the remedial classroom.
As expected, the subsequent classes were canceled, and the students could only go home early.
So, Seigetsu Zhu returned to her own home.
Unlike usual, when she returned home today, the sunlight in the sky was still bright.
She used her key to open the door, put down her backpack, and suddenly froze.
Not because the house was brightly lit, but...
Seigetsu Zhu's voice trembled slightly as she called out towards the living room.
No one responded.
Seigetsu Zhu changed into her slippers and walked along the corridor.
Her heart was pounding, as if there was a sudden omen.
Seigetsu Zhu had spent a long time in this house, and it had always been just her and her mother living there.
The young girl knew the placement of every item in the house like the back of her hand, so even at night, she could move around in the darkness without any accidents.
And if someone had really touched something in the house, even if it was a very slight change, she would be able to recognize it at a glance.
Seigetsu Zhu quickly walked to the kitchen door.
When she stood outside the transparent glass door and looked inside, her beautiful pupils suddenly widened.
Seigetsu Zhu covered her mouth, murmuring in disbelief.
—In the bright and clean kitchen, a woman in a bathrobe was sitting quietly at the table.
She was so thin that she was almost skin and bones, and her cheeks had shrunk as if they had dried up. But...
She was really sitting there! Not like usual, locking herself in that dark and cramped bedroom.
"Mom, are you... are you okay?"
Seigetsu Zhu finally came back to her senses from the shock, and hurriedly ran to her mother's side, squatting down to look at her mother's face.
The middle-aged woman sat at the table, her thin palm holding a cup, moving at a steady pace.
"You can get up? You really don't need to rest a little longer?"
The woman glanced at her, her voice hoarse.
"...Are you annoyed that I'm going to take care of you, and you want me to stay down?"
"No, how could that be."
A happy smile bloomed on Seigetsu Zhu's face.
"I'm really happy, I didn't expect my mother's condition to improve."
She lowered her head and said softly, as if talking to herself.
"Today is really a happy day, there are so many things worth celebrating... not only did I make real friends for the first time, but when I came back, I saw my mother welcoming me in the kitchen..."
The woman suddenly grabbed the girl's wrist, turned her head, and on her expressionless, thin face, her deeply sunken eye sockets contained two eyeballs that shone like ghostly lights.
"Who did you find?"
Seigetsu Zhu was stunned for a moment, then smiled and replied.
"Friends? Didn't I tell my mother a long time ago, one is called Starry Lin, and the other is Sunny Xu. From today, I and the two of them are officially friends."
"I have already decided on this," the short-haired girl's smile on her face slightly faded, and her tone became unusually serious, "even if my mother disagrees, it's useless, right?"
The mother and daughter at the table looked at each other in silence.
At this moment, time seemed to stand still.
After a while, the mother slowly let go of her hand, and turned her face back.
"...Seigetsu, I'm hungry."
The smile on Seigetsu Zhu's face became bright again, and she stood up, walked to the sink, tied on an apron, picked up a knife and cutting board, and took out the tomatoes from the bag to wash under the faucet.
"Let's make noodles today, tomato and egg noodles, how about that?"
Without getting a response from her mother, Seigetsu Zhu didn't mind.
She was in a cheerful mood, humming a familiar tune, and started to cut the vegetables in earnest.
The bright sunlight shone in from the window, and the clean and tidy kitchen seemed to be shining everywhere; the curtains swayed gently in the warm breeze, the sound of chopping vegetables, and the mother and daughter facing away from each other, created a calm and peaceful, even slightly tipsy afternoon for this family...
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