“The salary is really high, though I’m not sure when I will be receiving the official work contract…
“A fixed salary of 5,000 yuan per month and a bonus of 1,000, which means I can earn up to 6,000 every month!
“Moreover, there are additional rewards for completing tasks like investigations or cleanups…
“I can get 30,000 for eliminating a Level One Psyche Monster, and 300,000 for a Level Two monster…
“Even if I don’t do the tasks, the two jobs can give me 6,000 yuan a month. That’s more than enough. I’ll need around 500 yuan for food, and that leaves me with 5,500 yuan of savings every month. That’s 66,000 yuan a year and 660,000 in ten years…
“Besides, we’ll need to relocate the primary school soon. The current place has unstable water and electricity supplies, and it’s too close to the high wall. That’s too dangerous. I’ve heard that it costs about one million to get a house big enough to accommodate a teacher, a security guard, and a dozen kids far away from the high wall. If I can save 5,500 bucks every month…
“I’ll have enough money in fifteen years at most…”
Lu Xin calculated, feeling hopeful.
He was still young. He could afford to wait for fifteen years.
Besides, he could earn even faster if he did some tasks.
But that was not guaranteed. He wasn’t an official member yet, so he risked getting fired at any time. Therefore, he had to get officially contracted as soon as possible.
If everything went well, not only would he be able to buy a big house faster, he could also afford to spend more on his food. Moreover, he might be able to bring Ms. Xiaolu to the main city and find a competent doctor to cure her leg.
Having thought through that, Lu Xin was in a good mood. He got off the bus and slowly strolled home with his hands in his pockets.
When he was reaching his apartment building, he suddenly stopped walking. He wasn’t in a rush to go home, anyway.
“What are you doing, brother? Mom and dad are waiting for you to have dinner together!”
Someone called him from the top of the lamppost by his side. Lu Xin looked up and saw his sister sitting on the lamppost railing, hugging the bear that she had pieced together. Her slender legs were swinging in the night breeze, and she was smiling mysteriously.
“Sister, I’ve something to discuss with you.”
Lu Xin pondered and slowly raised his head to look at his sister. He said, “I’ve just got a new job offer which can give me much more money than before, enough to rebuild our old home. I really want to do it. But, it may require abilities to do it well. I was wondering…” He paused for a second, before continuing, “Would you mind lending me your abilities?”
“You want to borrow my abilities?”
The girl was initially smiling, but her expression started to look somewhat eerie now. “What do I get in exchange then, brother?”
Lu Xin thought for a moment and asked carefully, “How about the screaming rubber chicken?”
The girl’s smile disappeared. Her figure turned blurry as if she would disappear at any moment.
Lu Xin called out at once, “Hold on! Let’s talk…”
The new job could give him lots of money. He certainly wanted to do it well.
And the first step in doing it well was to work with his sister…
Apparently, the girl was still upset. She simply looked at him quietly.
Lu Xin didn’t know what to do. He asked, “What kind of toy do you want, exactly?”
“You know what I want…”
Seeing that Lu Xin was serious, a mysterious smile emerged on the girl’s face. She stood up, jumped off the lamppost, and gently landed before Lu Xin like a feather-light spider. She squatted on the ground and looked up at him. “I want fun toys!”
Lu Xin frowned slightly.
Suddenly, excitement flashed across the girl’s eyes as she looked forward.
A drunk man was relieving himself in a corner under the dim lamplight.
Her eyes were bright with excitement, and her smile was strange and cruel. “I like toys that move and talk. Whole, complete toys. If they’re complete, I can tear them apart and piece them back together again…
“Brother, can you give that toy to me?
“If you give it to me, I can lend you my abilities…”
“Don’t harm people without any reason…”
Lu Xin looked at the man, who was now kicking dustbins and swearing. He whispered to the girl, “It’s against the law.”
The girl’s smile was almost vicious now. She murmured, “Then, why are they allowed to hurt me?”
Lu Xin didn’t know how to respond.
He looked at his sister’s small, delicate face. At that moment, he noticed an uneven crack and the bitterness in her eyes.
“If you don’t want me to harm others, you can lend yourself to me for a while as my toy…”
The girl stared straight into his eyes. Her smile was spine-chilling.
Lu Xin remained silent. He didn’t accept nor reject. He watched as his sister’s sharp fingers reached out toward him.
Her fingertips were as sharp as daggers, as though surrounded by invisible powers.
Unfathomable consequences would result when she touched humans.
However, as her fingers inched closer and closer toward Lu Xin, she suddenly slowed down.
She didn’t carve into his body. Instead, her fingers slid across his back, brushing against the long, sinister scar from outside his shirt. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine how much pain that scar had caused him.
“My brother has always been a fool…”
His sister lowered her voice and whispered, “When I was being harmed, only you came to my rescue.”
Her strange smile suddenly softened. At that moment, she looked like a normal, vulnerable young girl. She reached out, but, instead of hurting Lu Xin, she hugged him, burying her face into his chest. Her tiny body was shaking. She must be crying hard, but there was no sound in this quiet, empty alley.
Lu Xin looked at her as she cried for a long time. Finally, he let out a soft sigh.
Sometimes, as dreams and reality intertwined and fantasies and truth overlapped, he could no longer tell them apart.
After a while, he gently held his sister by the shoulders and asked with a smile, “Sister, do you know that I’m no longer my old self?”
There were still tears on his sister’s dirty face, but her curiosity couldn’t be hidden. “What?”
“My new job. I’m rich now!”
Lu Xin said in a serious tone, “Although I can’t give you the kind of toys you just asked for, I can buy you other toys!”
He pointed at the bustling street in the distance and said, “There. Just tell me what you like and I’ll buy them all!
His words seemed to have washed away his sister’s sadness.
She smiled and nodded firmly.
Earlier, Lu Xin had earned some money from cleaning up the corruption caused by the Level One Psyche Monster at the cafe, but he had left all of it with the Red Moon Orphanage. Thankfully, his years of hard work had allowed him to save more than 2,000 yuan. Lu Xin found an old ATM and withdrew all his savings. Then, he held his sister’s hand and brought her to the busiest street in the Old City District.
It was fine to spend all the money because he would be able to earn more with the new job, anyway.
Barbie dolls in fancy dresses, cute, fluffy teddy bears, movable puppets, and soft toys that would say “Hug me!” when pressed… Lu Xin bought lots of toys in one go. He visited all the toy shops from one end of the street to the other. Some of the toys had been made before the Red Moon event and were later returned to the shelves, but there were also new ones recently produced after the event.
He received strange stares. But he didn’t care, nor did he care about his money. He was planning to spend all of it, after all…
As long as his sister said or expressed some slight interest, he would buy it.
He knew that other people couldn’t see his sister. Therefore, when he talked to her or held her hands, other people would always look at him as if he were a lunatic. He might be self-conscious on other days, but he didn’t mind that today.
He only wanted to satisfy his sister’s wishes as much as he could.
In the end, he left the street with five bags of toys in his hands, several bears on his back, and lots of toys under his arms. Under other people’s strange stares, he brought his sister to the river bridge and piled all the toys together.
His sister sat in the center, surrounded by all the toys. Her eyes lit up.
She plucked off the Barbie doll’s head and legs, dug out the teddy bear’s eyes, and tore it in halves. She switched the position of the puppet’s arms and legs and emptied the battery container of the soft toy that knew nothing more than “Hug me!”… She destroyed the toys to her heart’s content, looking so happy and satisfied as if she had never had such fun before.
Meanwhile, Lu Xin leaned against the railings beside her with a cigarette between his fingers, looking at his sister quietly.
“I’m so happy, brother!”
Finally, the girl raised her head and looked at Lu Xin. Her smile was adorable.
Lu Xin was relieved and smiled. “Do you agree to lend me your abilities now?”
His sister stood up from the pile of destroyed toys. She smiled, her eyes beaming with joy.
“My silly brother, have you not noticed that you can forcefully use my abilities even if I say no?”
Lu Xin paused for a long moment before answering, “But I still want to ask for your approval.”
A cheerful smile blossomed on the girl’s twisted face, and she reached out her slender hand toward Lu Xin.
“I will be by your side whenever you need me!”
Looking at his sister’s eyes, Lu Xin reached out his hand firmly.
Under the red moon, he gently high-fived his sister, as if it was a promise.