Chapter 35: Sniper

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Edited by Bet from Betwixted Translations

New Year’s Eve was a day bustling with noise and excitement.
In a small square not far from a residential area, a plush brown teddy bear with a bow tied around his neck exited a public restroom, carrying a backpack.
He adorably turned his head left and right, glancing around his surroundings with curiosity.

The visitors of the square noticed him quickly and turned his way one after another.
Some lively children shrieked with excitement and screamed, “Bear, bear!” while dragging their parents in his direction, wanting to hug the big teddy bear.

However, before they got close, the silly looking plush bear dashed towards the street vendors on the outskirts of the square.
He stopped in front of an old man selling balloons, said something, and pulled out a large number of big red banknotes from his backpack.
He unceremoniously stuffed them into the old man’s hands.

A touched expression appeared on the old man’s face, and he bowed to the bear, thanking him.
Then he picked up his plastic stool and money box and went away, leaving behind a small tricycle with a bunch of balloons.

A second later, the bear put his backpack on the cargo platform in the back, swung himself into the padded saddle, and skillfully maneuvered the tricycle from between the other vendors.
He drove along the street stalls and… started to shop while riding.

A crowd of onlookers: “…” Oi, this isn’t how the plush teddy bear’s routine should go, is it?

“Sweets, fireworks, fancy paper lanterns, New Year banners… There are so many fun things—was the New Year’s Eve in the city always this lively?” In the teddy bear costume, Shi Jin appeared calm and carefree.
Internally, however, he was being driven crazy by the steadily increasing progress bar.

Xiao Si, who had been silent since Shi Jin arrived at the square, finally stirred.

Shi Jin’s eyes lit up.
He threw a few red banknotes to a man selling fireworks and snatched all the prank fireworks on his stall, piling them up on the cargo platform.
He got on, then, with his tricycle full of balloons, sweets, and miscellaneous items, he swept across the small square like a gust of wind and headed for the residential area.

The onlookers: “…”

The children who were eager to come over: “…Boohoo, waah, waaah— Bear ran away, I want beaaar!”

Chen Qing was holding the dinner at a community called Solidarity.
It wasn’t large and was relatively old.
It had randomly planted trees and shrubbery, narrow roads, and few parking spaces.
The entrance, which faced a busy old town street, could at most accommodate two cars passing side by side.

Gua One parked at the corner of a street a ways from the community.
He surveyed their surroundings.
“This area’s layout is troublesome: ambushers can hide almost everywhere, and the ambushed party would have a hard time getting away.”

Gua Two, in the passenger seat, added, “The community is old, the building interiors are cramped, and there are no elevators.
Is the leader of Black Rose out of his mind? He made Chen Qing use this location for dinner—isn’t he afraid we will be suspicious?”

Lian Jun glanced at the many people out and about on the street and asked, “Is everyone in position?”

Gua Three, sitting to his left, tapped his tablet a few times.
“The unit sent to rescue Chen Qing’s family is ready to move any time.
Ours and the government’s people surrounded Solidarity and are trying to identify all the suspicious persons and vehicles.
The situation inside is unknown; we’re still waiting for the scouts to get back to us.”

Lian Jun nodded.
He checked the hour, then dialed Chen Qing’s number.

Gua Nine sat on Lian Jun’s other side.
He immediately prepared to trace the call to get Chen Qing’s exact location.

The call connected quickly.
Voice sounding as usual, Chen Qing asked, {Are you here yet, Lian Jun? The soup is about to be done.
This time, you have to taste my craft.
They say my soup is thick with ingredients—I’ve been picking them out since half a month ago.}

Half a month.

Lian Jun singled out the relevant part.
As he looked at the New Year decorations in the display window of a nearby shop, a picture of Shi Jin’s jolly looking snowman flashed through his mind.
For a moment, it dazed him, but he quickly shook himself out of it and focused on the present.
“Then, by all means, I have to try it.
I still haven’t arrived—the road is narrow and the snow hasn’t been cleared yet.
My car can’t get through, I’m afraid I’ll be a little late.”

{It’s fine, this is my fault.
I wanted to meet with you but forgot how the roads here are this time of the year,} Chen Qing said apologetically.
His words were accompanied by the sound of a ladle clanging against a pot and the muffled noise of a television, all very realistic, as if he really was in the kitchen preparing dinner.
{Be careful on the road, you don’t have to hurry.
Call me when you’re near, I will tell you which building it is.}

Lian Jun seized the opportunity: “No, come and pick me up.
After I arrive, I’ll wait for you at the gate.”

Chen Qing was quiet for a few seconds, then he reiterated in a normal tone of voice: {Anyway, call me when you get here.
I’ll hang up now—I have to finish cooking the soup, you’ll be here soon.} He ended the call right after.

Gua Nine’s hands paused in their dance across the laptop keyboard, and he frowned.
“I’ve confirmed the call came from somewhere in the community, but it’s impossible to determine which building—the call was too short.”

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“It’s enough to know he’s really inside.” Lian Jun put down the phone and turned to Gua Three.
“Black Rose has been preparing for this meal for half a month.
It’s likely most of the original residents have been replaced, so warn our people to investigate with caution.”

Gua Three nodded and busied himself with sending messages to his men.

After they waited for about ten minutes, the scouts sent back: all appears normal—in other words, they didn’t discover anything wrong.
Most probably, Lian Jun’s guess was right, and the majority of the residents were Black Rose members in disguise.

Everyone inside the car frowned.
Lian Jun tapped a finger on his knee and instructed Gua One to drive towards the community.
At the same time, he called Chen Qing.

The man answered quickly.
Lian Jun said that he had arrived at the gate of the community and asked him to come out to pick them up.
Chen Qing refused, sounding very embarrassed, explaining that he got a sudden stomachache and had to solve a physiological problem.
Then he relayed the exact address of his house, mentioned that he had unlocked the door already, and asked Lian Jun go straight in.

Everyone in the car: “…”

“What now, should we wait or go in?” Gua Two asked.

Gua Three interjected, “If we wait, I believe Mr.
Chen will call and say he’s constipated.”

Gua Nine followed suit: “But if we go in, we jump straight into the tiger’s mouth.”

Everyone’s eyes turned to Lian Jun, waiting for his decision.

“Wait,” Lian Jun announced, in a calm, almost detached, manner.
“Black Rose is eager to lead us into a trap.
If we refuse to move, they’ll definitely compromise and let Chen Qing come out.
The situation inside is not clear, we can’t go in, or we’ll just deliver ourselves into their hands.”

Lian Jun decided such, so they quietly waited.

Three minutes, five minutes, ten minutes… Chen Qing had yet to call, Lian Jun insisted on not calling him too.

The situation reached a deadlock.
Outside the car, the old town street was full of festive New Year’s atmosphere and an occasional pedestrian passed by, but inside, silence reigned.
It was as if the car window separated two different worlds.


Across the street, in a room above a store, Wang Mei, the leader of Black Rose, took off his headphones and banged his fist angrily on the table, snarling, “Fucking Lian Jun, he’s as slippery as an eel! He came to meetan old friend, and he’s still so wary!”

The deputy next to him hadn’t expected Lian Jun to be this vigilant—refusing to even enter the community.
He frowned.
“What should we do now, Boss? Wait him out?”

“Wait him out my ass! What that man values the most is his own life, and he has seen more traps than we’ve earned money.
If we continue to delay, believe me, he will simply break the appointment and scurry back to hide in his den!” Wang Mei snapped.
He composed himself and walked to the window to look down at Lian Jun’s car on the other side of the street.
Gnashing his teeth, he growled, “Fine! Make Chen Qing call Lian Jun and try to persuade him to enter Solidarity.
If he won’t be convinced, let Chen Qing go pick him up!”

The deputy hesitated, then said worriedly, “What if Chen Qing came out, but Lian Jun still refused to enter? He might even want to take Chen Qing somewhere else to eat.”

It wasn’t an unreasonable concern.
Given how cautious Lian Jun was, there was a real possibility he would cajole his friend into giving up the meal he had cooked and going for dinner at some restaurant in Annihilation’s territory.

Then, with Chen Qing in Lian Jun’s hands, wouldn’t Black Rose’s play be ruined?

Wang Mei’s expression distorted and his eyes watching Lian Jun’s car darkened.
He picked up a gun on the cabinet and wiped it studiously, saying, “We can’t let Chen Qing follow Lian Jun.
Send someone to remind him where his children are right now.
If Lian Jun insists on not entering the community, we will kill him right here! Tell Chen Qing that if he can’t persuade Lian Jun to come in, he should at least trick him into leaving the car or opening the window, giving the snipers an opportunity.
Tell him that if Lian Jun doesn’t die today, his children won’t live to see tomorrow!”

The deputy was still uneasy.

“But nothing!” Wang Mei interrupted, turning around and pointing the gun at him.
“Or are you going to let Lian Jun go back and waste all our preparation? You know, I have no cowards on my staff.”

Intimidated, the deputy promptly shut up, not daring to object further.
He reassured his boss with a few words, then picked up his phone and contacted his subordinates.

Inside the car, Gua One finished examining the surrounding terrain and said, “There are five sniping positions around here.
The nearest ones are on the second floors of the shop opposite us and the one behind us.
In one, the lights are off, we can’t see the interior, and in the other, the lights are on, but the curtains are pulled closed.
Both are suspicious.”

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“Find someone to check them out,” Lian Jun said, his fingers caressing the phone.
Abruptly, he asked, “What time is it?”

His subordinates were taken aback.
Gua Three, who happened to look at the tablet at that moment, glanced at the hour and answered, “Half-past six.”

They set off around five, and it took half an hour to get there, then they delayed for about an hour.
Now, it was dark, and the number of pedestrians steadily decreased.
It was a good time for an attack.

Lian Jun nodded to indicate his awareness of the situation and said, “Order our people to slowly approach this side and prepare for a firefight near the gate.
The officials should think of a way to clear off the nearby streets so bystanders won’t get involved.”

Gua Three confirmed that he understood.

Suddenly, the phone’s ringtone attracted the attention of everyone in the car.

Lian Jun glanced at the screen.
“It’s Chen Qing,” he said, tapping the ‘accept call’ icon.

Chen Qing called to ask Lian Jun why he hadn’t arrived yet.
Lian Jun said he was outside the community buying fruits.
Tt wasn’t good to visit empty-handed during New Year’s Eve and good manners should be observed even between friends.
Then he asked Chen Qing if he was already free, explaining that the arrangement of buildings in Solidarity was too irregular—it made him not know which way to go, so he needed someone to pick him up.

Chen Qing laughed and teased him with a few words, then gave another excuse and described the way in detail, still hoping Lian Jun could come by himself.

Lian Jun continued to bemoan his lack of sense of direction, saying he simply couldn’t find the way.

The two men acted with tacit understanding, behaving like two good friends who were about to get together.
It was all very heartwarming and made Wang Mei, who was eavesdropping on the call, almost vomit blood and madly curse Lian Jun for spouting such a pack of nonsense, the fucking liar.

When had Lian Jun, the leader of Annihilation, ever learned the traditional code of conduct and good manners of the ordinary people? As for buying fruits—did he even know what the door of a greengrocer’s shop looked like? And whether that was the lie or the truth, if he says he wants to buy fruits, then he should at least get off the fucking car!

“Enough! Let Chen Qing come pick him up.
Everyone get ready, try to find an opportunity to ambush Lian Jun.
While you’re at it, drive a few cars over, once we’re done, we’ll withdraw immediately!” Wang Mei finally lost his patience.
When he finished giving orders, he dropped the phone and trained his gun on the car, aiming for where Lian Jun should be seated.

At long last, Chen Qing came out, alone.
He was dressed in thin clothes and wore a funny apron over them, which he tried to hide but only managed to attract more attention to it.

He approached the car and, while the people watching from the dark couldn’t see his face, he mouthed towards Lian Jun, Ambush at the gate, all have guns, snipers hiding nearby.
Don’t get out of the car.

Lian Jun nodded, he understood, but what he said was, “I’m sorry, you had to come to pick me up.”

“There’s nothing to apologize for, it’s my mistake.
I forgot it’s not easy to find a place in this community.” Chen Qing’s tone remained the same, and he had a smile on his face, but inside, he was anxious.

He was afraid—afraid that Lian Jun would put himself in danger to save him.
The truth was, he had already resigned himself; the only thing he asked Lian Jun for was to rescue his children and send them to a safe place along with his wife.
He didn’t really care about his own safety.

If you die, you die.
Even if the people who walked into the underworld quit halfway and leave, in their hearts, they are always prepared to be dragged back into the darkness.
He was already satisfied with having been able to live an ordinary life these past few years.

And if not for Lian Jun protecting him, it would be impossible for him to live in peace all this time.
The last thing he wanted was for Lian Jun to suffer because of him.

Thinking such, he slowly straightened and instead of pulling the car door open as Wang Mei ordered, took a step back.
With his eyes, he signaled Lian Jun to leave and not worry about him.

Lian Jun frowned and shook his head, motioning Gua Two to prepare to open the door and pull Chen Qing into the car, and the others to get ready to cover him.
He did not forget to speak out loud to give Wang Mei, who was likely to be eavesdropping on them, some peace of mind: “Wait a moment, I’ll get off here.
This gate seems too narrow for my car to drive through.”

However, Chen Qing thought he really wanted to leave the car and hurriedly stepped forward to hold the car door, not letting him open it.
It was impossible to mistake the purpose of his actions.

“Damn, what the hell is Chen Qing doing? He fucking blocked the door instead of opening it! Doesn’t he care about the lives of his children?!” Wang Mei flew into a fury.
He wished he could pull aside Chen Qing’s hand and drag Lian Jun out into his line of fire.

Suddenly, the deputy standing next to him put down his phone and said, alarmed, “Boss, not good, we’re surrounded.
We’ve already lost contact with several members in the outermost area!”

The look on Wang Mei’s face changed abruptly.
He immediately realized his plan had long been discovered by Lian Jun, and he had fallen into his trap instead.
A ruthless expression appeared on his face.
He changed his target, training the gun at Chen Qing—he was going to clean up this useless waste first.

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He loaded the bullet.


Gua Two opened the car door a crack, ready to drag Chen Qing inside.

All the snipers hiding in the darkness aimed at Lian Jun’s car.

Time seemed to stand still.
Both Black Rose members lying in wait nearby and Lian Jun’s men who slowly approached the gate pretending to be ordinary passers-by—all carefully watched the car.
As tension reached its zenith, everyone waited for a signal to start the battle.


Shi Jin pedaled the tricycle like crazy.
When Lian Jun’s progress bar jumped to 999.5, he nearly had a heart attack.
At last, the familiar black car appeared in front of him, and he slammed on the brakes.
He turned around and grabbed the prank fireworks from the cargo platform.
After Xiao Si added a strength buff, he lit them up and threw them as hard as he could.


Tsss tsss tsss—

The fireworks flew in an arc and struck the middle of the old street.
They exploded with a bang, bursting into a large cloud of confetti.
Plumes of colorful smoke rose, spreading rapidly until it covered a part of the street.


Shi Jin extended his bear paw and switched the tricycle’s loudspeaker on, turning up the volume to the max.

“I wish you a prosperous New Year~ ♪
I wish you to have a wonderful year~ ♫
Selling balloons, cute balloons!
Good luck, I invite you over~ ♬
Bad luck, please go away~ ♪“

Distorted by the crackling of an old loudspeaker, the sound of singing alternating with a shouted sales pitch blared under the night sky, deafening noise bombarding everyone’s ears.

What… the hell?

Everyone was struck dumb.
Before anyone managed to react, there were several more bangs—a batch of prank smoke balls was thrown out, some dropping near the entrance to the community, some hitting the sign of the shop across the street, and a few even landed inside the gate.
The blasting confetti and the clouds of smoke went everywhere, turning the surroundings hazy with a dreamlike quality.

Wang Mei was dumbfounded.
He was about to pull the trigger when this “fairytale scenery” obscured his sight.
Forget hitting the target, it was impossible to make out anything.

Gua Two, in the middle of opening the car door, was stunned too, but it only took him a second to snap out of it.
Taking advantage of the chaos, he flung the door open, put one leg on the ground to support himself, tugged Chen Qing toward the car, slid the seat back, dragged Chen Qing inside and pushed him to the floor, pulled his legs into the car, and slammed the door closed.
The whole thing took no more than five seconds.

“Drive, quickly!” He shouted, turning his head to look in the direction where the singing came from.

Except for Gua One, who was the driver, the others did the same.

A plush bear rushed through the colorful smoke dancing with the wind on his tricycle, throwing around candies and fireworks as he approached.
Occasionally, he let a few balloons loose, allowing them to float up into the sky.
He truly could be called a “bear child.”

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“What the fuck! Where did that kid come from? Playing such a prank on the New Year’s Eve, this is really… really wicked! He saved us from a firefight.” Gua Two couldn’t help but praise.

Gua Three knitted his brows.
“He messed up Black Rose’s plan, he’s likely to suffer their retaliation.
We need to send someone to protect him.”

“Then do it!” Gua One called out, swiftly turning the steering wheel.
The Black Rose members still stood in a daze, so he backed up, turned the car around, stepped on the gas and drove away, leaving behind only the scent of exhaust fume.

A small wrinkle appeared between Lian Jun’s eyebrows, his gaze still glued to the clouds of multicolored smoke.
Perhaps it was his delusion, but the movements of the plush bear throwing things looked familiar, as if he had seen it somewhere.

“Lian Jun.” Chen Qing huddled on the floor in front of the passenger seat, suddenly spoke.

Lian Jun returned to himself and turned away from the sight in the rear window, casting aside his inexplicable thoughts.
He looked at Chen Qing, who wore the expression of a man having braced himself for impending death yet miraculously survived, and reassured him, “Don’t worry.
There are not many people guarding them, they will be rescued soon.”

Chen Qing nodded.
He got up with Gua Two’s help and squeezed into the passenger seat next to him, bowing his head to Lian Jun gratefully.
“Thank you, I thought I wouldn’t make it this time.”

Lian Jun comforted him with a few sentences.
Then, he remembered Shi Jin, who waited alone in the club, and for some reason, was a little anxious.

At the gate to the community.

After Lian Jun’s departure, the members of Black Rose and Lian Jun’s men who pretended to be passers by immediately attacked each other, and the government troops rushed here in large numbers.
Wang Mei was so furious about the failed ambush he almost demolished the room.
Finally, his deputy persuaded him to order a withdrawal.

Wang Mei got to the getaway car safely, but he still wasn’t reconciled to the failure.
He growled, “Make the snipers stay for now! Tell them to find that damn bear and kill him!”

The deputy was taken aback.
He said uneasily, “Now the area is crawling with the government forces and people from Annihilation.
It’s too dangerous to leave someone behind.”

“Are you the boss or am I the boss? Do as I say!” Wang Mei was so angry he took out his gun, aiming it at the other man.
He snarled, “I said that someone must die today.
Do you want to be that person?”

The deputy swallowed hard and shook his head.
He pulled out his phone and called the sniper team under the fierce eyes of his boss.

Shi Jin rode his tricycle at full speed, wanting to leave the unfortunate street as soon as possible.
He could see there were no ordinary pedestrians here at all, only the underworld and government forces.
He was afraid he would become involved in their fight if he didn’t get out soon.

Xiao Si suddenly screamed.

Startled, Shi Jin’s foot almost missed the pedal.
“How come!? Wasn’t his bar dropping?”

Xiao Si was so frightened its voice broke.

Shi Jin glanced at his bar—it was going up 10 points a second and was already over 900.
His heart sank.
He considered something and turned his head left and right, scanning his surroundings.
It took him a few seconds to locate several possible sniper locations.
When his progress bar reached 980, he released the tricycle’s handles and jumped.
He rolled to a stop, then quickly rolled in the opposite direction.


A bullet cut through the air and struck the ground not too far away.


Translator’s Notes:
“Big red banknotes” – this is relevant, because the higher the denomination, the larger the banknote, and color also changes.
Big red banknotes are those of the denomination of ¥100.
“I wish you a prosperous New Year…” – Shi Jin is singing this song by Andy Lau.
恭喜發財 (Gōng xǐ fā cái) is a traditional New Year’s greeting.
You may think of this song as a contemporary Chinese equivalent of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
“Bear child” [熊孩子] – it refers to kids who are noisy, rambunctious, and don’t behave or listen, for example, a little girl whining and screaming for a toy, or a boy running around in a restaurant, ignoring his parents, crashing into a waiter and getting plates smashed.
It also can be spoken playfully among family members or friends.
In English, you would use “brat,” “imp,” “little devil,” etc.
You get the drift.

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