We immediately set off for the Sino-Vietnamese border. At this time, we couldn’t get through even if we followed the proper protocols, so we made an appointment with the kindergarten people to meet in the trade zone at the border. Even though our side could come to this trade zone, and so could the Vietnamese, the only thing we could do was move around the area.
Based on the information sent by the other party, it was a very common kindergarten in the local area. There weren’t any surveillance systems installed, so no one knew what happened that night.
When we were traveling, there was a certain moment when I glanced at Poker-Face in the rearview mirror and found that his expression was suddenly alert, as if he had thought of something or sensed something.
The look on his face at that moment gave me a very bad feeling.
After that, he kept looking in a certain direction.
I knew that something must have happened far away, and he had either sensed it or remembered something.
“If something’s wrong, you can tell me,” I said to him.
He continued to look in that direction while saying, “I can’t say for certain. If something happened, someone will come tonight. If no one comes, then it’s fine.”
The Zhang family had an intelligence network that was still functioning despite being weakened over the years. What Poker-Face was saying was that someone might deliver a message, but he wasn’t sure right now.
This little episode was making me feel uneasy, especially because it sounded like something else had appeared even though we hadn’t dealt with the current issue. Judging by his reaction, however, it seemed as if he remembered something important.
But no one came that night, so I decided not to worry about it.
After arriving at the border, Agui’s eldest daughter came to pick us up and took us to the guest house at the trade zone.
The trade zone was a place where businessmen from both sides engaged in a lot of trade revolving around fruit and dried fruit. Chinese electrical appliances, such as small household appliances and razors, were also sold there.
The guest house was very chaotic and even had a line drawn down the middle, with China on one side and Vietnam on the other. You could cross this line at will, but the laws on both sides were different.
We went to the Vietnam side to eat rice noodles and met the teacher who worked at the Vietnamese kindergarten. She was only nineteen years old and could speak a little Chinese, but her accent was too strong. Her English, on the other hand, was much better. We communicated with each other using a mix of all three languages. Agui’s eldest daughter also helped us translate since she could speak Vietnamese as well.
The teacher’s narrative didn’t really have any useful information. She was a teacher who lived in the dormitory. At that time, all the children had already fallen asleep, but then they suddenly began crying one by one. When she rushed over with several other teachers, they found the rashes on the children’s bodies.
The rashes were so unbearably itchy that the children scratched themselves to the point that the teachers had to put gloves on them.
The police from both sides also came later. My whereabouts were easy to check so I was quickly ruled out as a suspect, but they also asked me a lot of questions about any enemies I might have. My first thought was that if I had enemies in Southeast Asia, it could only be those two—I still owed a lot of money after all —but they certainly wouldn’t do such a thing.
The teacher had also brought a child with her, a social butterfly in the kindergarten who was so energetic that she refused to sleep at night. We bought her food and asked her what happened that night.
The little girl said (in Vietnamese), “It was hát tuồng.”
“Yes, there’s a person in hát tuồng who plays a tortoise that crawls on the roof. A big tortoise,” the little girl said.
Fatty and I looked at each other. Fatty said he didn’t understand; this wasn’t something he was familiar with.
“And then what?”
“There was an incense burner on the tortoise’s back, just like the ones used when praying.”
“What is hát tuồng?” I asked Agui’s eldest daughter.
“It’s a traditional local opera in Vietnam,”(1) she said. “It’s just like zaju.(2) It’s also called hát chèo.”
Fatty tried to do an internet search on his cell phone, but there was very little information on it.
“If we want detailed information on this kind of thing, we’ll have to ask people on the other side of the trade zone and do some research at the library. There aren’t any pictures on the internet, only simple introductory information,” Fatty explained to us.
I figured the little girl was too young to draw us a picture, so I asked her, “Where on the tortoise’s back is the incense burner? Is it on the neck, the head, or the back?”
“On the neck,” the little girl said. Then she pointed to my neck, “You have one, too.”
After saying this, the little girl’s expression turned cold and she stared straight at me. I froze for a moment, but then she suddenly returned to normal.
I touched the back of my neck and asked her, “What did you just say?”
The little girl gave me a puzzled look. I glanced at Fatty, who shook his head and said, “She didn’t say anything. Is something wrong with you?”
I turned to look at Poker-Face, but he also shook his head.
I suddenly wondered if I had been hallucinating just now.
In the end, we gained nothing from this meeting. I lay down on my bed in the guest house and looked at the opposite wall, lost in thought. My brain, which had been frozen because of the good life I’d been living, finally began to regain its former agility.
This kind of thing really was too difficult to deal with. It wasn’t enough to rely solely on your IQ and shrewdness; you needed to have the ability to follow multiple lines of thought at the same time.
Right now, there were two lines of thought I was focusing on. The first was a question of whether this kindergarten had been randomly selected or not. If it was random, then that meant that the force at play here must be human.
As for the reason, I really couldn’t explain it clearly. It was just something that came from long-term experience.
If it wasn’t random, then there must be some reason why this force chose this kindergarten, and this reason would be the key to everything.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t go to the scene myself. I asked the teacher to take pictures of all the corners in the kindergarten and send them to me. But since I needed to observe the whole scene as well as the details, I asked her for videos in addition to the photos.
I told her to do this again during the day and to not let anyone know about it.
That night, I waited for Poker-Face’s scout again, but no one came by. When midnight rolled around, I was relaxed and ready for bed.
But at this time, my phone suddenly lit up. I glanced at the screen and saw that it was the female teacher’s phone number.
I looked at the clock and then at the phone, instinctively feeling that the situation might have changed.
<Chapter 33><Table of Contents><Chapter 35>
(1) Hát tuồng or hát bội is a form of Vietnamese theater. Hát tuồng is often referred to as classical “Vietnamese opera” influenced by Chinese opera. Stories in the opera tend to be ostensibly historical and frequently focus on the rules of social decorum, and can include legends from either Chinese or Vietnamese history. Tuồng is distinct from the older hát chèo genre of Vietnamese theatre which combines dance, song and poetry, and the more modern cải lương folk musical.
(2) Zaju was a form of Chinese opera which provided entertainment through a synthesis of recitations of prose and poetry, dance, singing, and mime, with a certain emphasis on comedy.
Tiffany is done checking through the “What are they doing” chapters so I added them to the New Years Specials/Extras pdf and epub. The updated versions for both formats can be found in the Misc Extras tab. Enjoy~~
Pic added 1/6/2023 (fan translation courtesy of me; sorry about the third panel, I couldn’t find a way to get rid of the Chinese characters without destroying the whole aesthetics so I just put the translation underneath).
2 thoughts on “Chapter 34 Traveling Notes”
Thank you and Tiffany for your hard work!
I was also afraid that someone would come to them at night, for example Zhang Haike.
Thank you for “What are they doing”💗