Zhang Heng followed the blood trail from the library to an orphanage. The whole tracking process wasn’t as simple as one thought it would be. Although the shadowy figure’s calf was injured, it did not need to rely on legs to flee Zhang Heng since the black liquid allowed it to travel from wall to wall. However, moving within the confines of walls was no good feeling, and from time to time, it would need to stick out its head for a breath of fresh air.
Each time the figure emerged from the wall, it would leave a few drops of blood on the ground. The creature’s blood was unique, and it was easily identifiable. Thicker than the blood of an ordinary human, it was darker, almost black, in fact. Not to mention the putrid stench it gave off. Still, it was no easy task to track droplets of blood in such a massive city.
Zhang Heng strung his recurve bow to his back. With a flashlight in one hand and phone in the other, he opened the Gao De map application and studied it. Discounting what it did at the library, the creature usually avoided showing itself in crowded places. It always targeted the city’s weakest bunch, the lower rungs of society. This meant many people had never seen it before. Now that it was injured, it would be even more cautious of its surroundings. With the electronic map, Zhang Heng eliminated places that had a high volume of people at this hour. For example, the main road and the food street that operated until late at night. Picking a couple of secluded areas, he then singled out spots with the highest possibility where the creature would go. From there, he would follow the order and zone in on the selected areas until he found the special blood on the ground. A search like this would be tedious and time-consuming since he was the only one looking.
However, all he needed was to look for five spots with blood on the ground, and he could figure out the location of the shadowy figure. After that, everything should become less complicated. Of course, some time would be needed to pinpoint the exact places on the map. After searching the boarding school and nearby hospital, he found no traces of the creature or that it had been there. The last place he would need to search was the orphanage in front of him. Including the day, Zhang Heng hadn’t closed his eyes or rested for more than 30 hours. Hence, he didn’t rush there and instead, headed to a nearby grocery store for some coffee. As usual, he left the money on the cashier’s desk and walked out.
Zhang Heng felt a lot more alert after the dose of strong coffee. Making sure to leave no trace, he wiped his saliva and fingerprints off the bottle with a piece of tissue, then threw them into a dustbin half a street away. The coffee’s extra boost of energy got him moving again, and he climbed over the gate of the orphanage.
At such late hours, most of the orphanage’ staff had gone home, leaving only a few guards, caretakers, one doctor, and four nurses who were on duty. It seemed to be another routine night, with the guards playing cards in their mess like they always did. The doctor was preparing for an evaluation in his office. As for the nurses, one was dozing off, with the other three busy playing Honor of Kings. The first floor housed the emergency, and duty room. There was also an observation room, a children’s restaurant, staff mess, and a multipurpose hall, but these places were completely empty right now. Seeing that the first floor was of no concern, Zhang Heng quickly ascended to the second floor, where most of the dormitories of the orphans were located. After scanning the caretaker’s mess and activity room on this floor, he found nothing. So, he moved his attention to the dormitories. At a corner in the west, Zhang Heng noticed a bed that had been isolated by the orphans. It appeared the orphans were terrified of the person who lay there, and although mere meters from the rest of the beds, a vibe of great segregation could be felt.
Right now, the other orphans were already asleep in their own bunks, but Zhang Heng saw nobody on the isolated bed. As he lifted the blanket, he saw a used medical bandage stained with blotches of black blood, confirming the creature was now in this orphanage. Stepping back to look at the nameplate hanging in front of the bed, the bed supposedly belonged to a child called Zhang Jinli. The staff of the orphanage hoped that the child would someday grow up to become a polite and well-mannered person, just as his name suggested. Unfortunately, their wish didn’t come true.
In the picture, Zhang Jinli looked sullen and grumpy, with his eyes giving off a death stare. He gave off the vibe of a crazed murderer, a temperament unfit for someone so young. Considering the terrifying things that he had done, the picture was considered cute. “Gotcha,” whispered Zhang Heng in a low voice while taking down the picture. After Zhang Jinli had been wounded by the arrow, he returned to the orphanage and snuck into the emergency room to steal some bandages. He didn’t linger on the bed for too long, knowing that in his haste, he must have left a lot of evidence. Nonetheless, Zhang Heng deduced that it would be highly unlikely that he’d leave the orphanage now. After all, the wound on his leg was quite severe. Although Zhang Jinli was absent from his bed, Zhang Heng remained calm and didn’t panic. He swiftly continued searching, and in the end, he found him in an examination room.
The boy had hidden himself behind an ultrasound machine with his body curled up.
Heng walked up towards him, then unwrapped the bandage that was hastily wrapped around his leg. The wound from the arrow was deep, and some kind of black blood oozed from it. In such a state, Zhang Jinli was fragile and vulnerable. Also, with time now paused, he could no longer control the black liquid or kill innocent people. Not even a finger of his could be lifted. Right now, the terrifying creature was nothing more but a motionless, delinquent child.
Zhang Heng could have opted to kill him right now. This would be the first time Zhang Heng killed someone in a still world. Although the Mannerheim and Black Sail quests bathed him in a baptism of bullets, he was still uneasy whenever he took a life. However, his conscience wouldn’t bother him if it was the right thing to do. Besides, the kid that he was about to kill was probably not human anyway. He swung the knife, about to strike, but stopped short of Zhang Jinli’s throat.
Zhang Heng frowned, seeing the hatred and insecurity that Zhang Jinli harbored toward this world in his eyes. He was different from Li Shengyue; having no fear whatsoever in his eyes. In other words, he controlled the black liquid willingly. The wound on his leg and black blood was also enough proof that he was the one who attacked Zhang Heng and Sheng Xixi in the school.
There was still one thing bothering Zhang Heng. According to Li Shengyue, Zhang Jinli was at the university that afternoon which meant he had left the orphanage. That said, with his ability to travel within walls, it wasn’t that hard for him to leave unnoticed. If he had left since the afternoon, it would be impossible that nobody realized the absence. However, when Zhang came across the orphanage’s staff, none of them seemed the least nervous that an orphan had gone missing for a long time now.