360 Split Cross

    "He he he," Kedou giggled as she waved out the window.

    "Kedou, what are you looking at?" Kedou's mom noticed this and asked with confusion.

    "There's a smiling buddha over the bank looking at us." Kedou said. Once he heard that, Gu Jun jumped up from his seat. He hurried to the balcony and looked over the river. Once the smiling buddha saw him, the former turned and walked away. Gu Jun's heart sank. He immediately took out his phone to call Captain Gao, "Captain Gao, there's a man in a smiling buddha mask across the river who is acting strangely. Detain him."

    At the same time, Wu Siyu led Kedou back to the dining table and assured her family that everything was fine. The guards had been patrolling the opposite bank because that was a perfect vantage point to attack Gu Jun's booked room. Therefore, once Gu Jun gave that order, Lin Ziyong led a few of his colleagues to immediately surround the man in the smiling buddha mask. They moved swiftly and effectively in account of the crowd. Gu Jun observed the operation from the balcony. The man in the mask immediately panicked. He gestured wildly before removing his mask. It was a young man.

    "Doctor Gu, the man claims that he is just taking a break by the riverside." Lin Ziyong reported. Soon, the other members of the young man's lion dance troupe walked over. They frowned when they saw their friend detained by the police.

    "Detain all of them for now..." Gu Jun was unsure himself. "There's something strange about this..." His head was pounding. He returned to the dinner but the food felt tasteless. His heart worried nonstop. After dinner, he pulled Wu Siyu over to whisper, "Dirty-minded Yu, I don't think we should return home tonight. Maybe it's a better idea to stay overnight at Phecda." Wu Siyu knew about his concern. His worry was not unfounded so she nodded.

    Gu Jun immediately had Captain Gao call for reinforcement. Wu Siyu's family was escorted towards Shen Hai City's Phecda division base. They were placed at a safehouse meant for members of Phecda. Kedou was curious about everything that she saw. She treated this as another part of the holiday but the adults could not help but worry. This was not how they envisioned spending the new year.

    The night passed peacefully. The people from the Investigation Department interrogated the man in the smiling buddha mask. The man admitted to waving at a girl by the window but that was part of his job. He was to bring cheer to children. After a long series of investigation and background check, the Investigation Department cleared the man and his troupe. But they had to be detained for days before their release. On the afternoon of the fifth day of New Year, Gu Jun and Siyu's family left the base. It was yet another fake scare. This was not the first time it happened and it would not be the last. Gu Jun felt quite guilty to have ruined the lion dance troupe's new year holiday... But he could not shake off the sting of imminent danger. He felt like someone was targeting them but he could not put his finger on it... PTSD and paranoia. Was that everything to it? His mood tensed again.

    'Even though I'm spared from further cerebral damage, can I really return to a normal life?' Now whenever he walked down the streets, every pedestrian took on an evil glint in his eyes. And the question popped up every so often... It was as if there was a voice warning him incessantly, 'Gu Jun, do you think everything is over now? Do you think you can leave just like that? You can't escape from your destiny no matter how hard you try. You are born for the purpose of misfortune, it shall follow in your wake...'

    "Dirty-minded Jun, go back and have a good sleep." When they parted that night, Wu Siyu consoled him. "Nothing happened is a good thing."

    When Gu Jun returned to the hotel, the conspicuous lack of Wu Siyu and Kedou's voice amplified the anxiety in his heart.

    'Misfortune...' He thought, 'Perhaps temporarily I should stay away from Siyu and Kedou. In fact, maybe I should go into seclusion.' He was afraid of bringing misfortune upon others. He was afraid that his friends would be targeted due to their proximity to him. Gu Jun sat on the couch and watched mindlessly the show on the tv. His brain pounded from the befuddling thoughts. When he felt sleepy, it was already 10 pm. It was time for bed but he felt too listless to move. He decided to do a Wu Siyu and collapsed down on the couch. He didn't want to grab the remote to switch off the tv. Even though he was not watching it, he appreciated it as a background noise. It helped to silence the voices in his head somewhat. He narrowed his eyes at the screen. It was showing a sketch. The comedians got guffaws from the audience. After who knew how long, Gu Jun's vision blurred but his mind still felt wide awake. He entered a state of semi-somnolence...

    He heard the constant sound of static. Was it from the tv? But this kind of new model should not produce this kind of sound. But through the white noise, a firm male voice said, "If you can hear us.... We are... innocent..."

    Gu Jun snapped out of it immediately. However, he tried to keep his emotion as even as possible to allow the white noise to continue...'It's that voice again. I definitely heard it this time. It's not an illusion. The voice's tone and range are the same. Is it a recording or a live broadcast? Who or what is this? Is it really due to my recent anxiety and paranoia?'

    "Please do not... tell anyone else... signal weaken..."

    'Signal!' Gu Jun heard clearly the term signal but what did the whole sentence mean? 'Please do not tell anyone else about this voice or else the signal will weaken?' He based this judgement on the fact that since he revealed his previous discovery to Phecda and Dirty-minded Yu, he did not encounter another broadcast for a whole week. Gu Jun decided to think about that later, for now he needed to focus on the signal. But his headache soon took over and the male voice wavered.

    "Help... us... symbol..." There were too many holes in this sentence because the words came too intermittently. He had trouble speculating the meaning but he did catch two of the terms clearly.

    Help. Was he to provide help or the voice was there to help him?

    Symbol? When he saw Wu Siyu's painting for the first time, it was also the only time he encountered the fleeting appearance of a symbol...

    Then, Gu Jun's vision blurred further. The LED screen filled up with white static. The feeling... was that of an illusion... The surroundings shifted. Inside another dilapidated room, he was seated before an obsolete model of a television. The two televisions overlapped over each other and a symbol appeared on the screens.

    It looked like an X but upon closer inspection, there was a gap in the middle. It was a split cross.
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