Author: 长洱 / Chang’er
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
The rain outside was getting stronger. The wind blew the branches and leaves, battering them up against the window, creating desperately knocking sounds. Zhang Xiaolong stopped at the right moment.
Dozens of eyes in the room converged on Lin Chen again.
Those eyes were filled with doubts and consternation, as if questioning why Lin Chen could easily speculate on the relationship between Yu Yanqing and Feng Peilin, making it look as if he was the actual suspect, which only added more awkwardness to the air.
Lin Chen closed his eyes lightly, unmoved.
Fu Hao became angry. He gritted his teeth and tried to speak up but was held back by Xing Conglian.
“It looks like I have to invite Mr. Feng over for a cup of tea, don’t you think so, political commissar?” Xing Conglian scratched his beard and tried to pull everyone’s attention away from Lin Chen.
The political commissar’s face was flushed, but he still pretended to be calm. After a moment of contemplation, he replied, “Yes, Lao Xing.”
Xing Conglian stood up, creating a grating sound with his chair. He subconsciously looked towards Lin Chen’s direction and wanted to take him with him, but Lin Chen still had his eyes closed.
Huang Ze had put away his notebook. He raised his cold face at a slight angle and said, “Captain Xing, it doesn’t seem good to let unrelated people participate in solving the case.”
“Mr. Lin has played a key role in the investigation of this case. How can he be considered unrelated?”
After listening to Xing Conglian’s response, Huang Ze flipped through his notebook, as if to find some records, then raised his head and asked, “It seems that Professor Fu is the psychology specialist for the police force here, no?”
Xing Conglian was speechless for a moment. He wanted to argue back but saw Lin Chen open his eyes slightly, looked at him, and shook his head.
Fu Hao hurriedly grabbed Xing Conglian and said, “Go, go Lao Xing. We need to arrest someone!”
The camphor on the side of the road was blown wildly by the wind as a jeep sped by. Fu Hao was silent. The only sound inside was Xing Conglian stepping on the gas, which made the atmosphere of the car gloomy and anxious.
When they stopped at a red light, Xing Conglian turned his head and said coldly, “Why don’t you explain?”
“Explain what?” Fu Hao said.
“Lin Chen is your shixiong, an expert among experts. Why didn’t you speak up?”
“That’s Huang Ze. If my shixiong doesn’t want to speak up, I can’t force it!” Xing Conglian’s attitude was so rough that it made Fu Hao a little angry, so he shouted his response back.
“What about Huang Ze? Too scared to speak up because he’s there?”
“Huang Ze is shixiong’s—!”
Fu Hao was about to blurt it out, but when he saw the look on Xing Conglian’s face, he suddenly realized that Xing Conglian was fishing for information. “Lao Xing, you old dog!”
Fu Hao bared his teeth in anger.
“Come on, tell me. What happened between Huang Ze and Lin Chen. And what’s going on with that person surnamed Chen…” Xing Conglian clicked his tongue as he locked the car. “If you don’t make it clear now, don’t think about getting out.”
When men gossiped, it was indeed more troublesome than women, because they were extremely persistent and had the means.
Fu Hao looked at the traffic light that had changed to green and felt the tense atmosphere he created just now was gone.
“Lao Xing, why are you so persistent…” Fu Hao said helplessly. His tone returned to calmness. “Even if you live a bit out of touch with the world, you must know that powerful families still exist in the world, and they are very rich. If you have money, that means you have power. It’s difficult for ordinary people to touch these people, but once you come into contact, you must be careful. This isn’t some kind of novel, but a more bizarre reality than fiction.”
“What do you mean?”
“From north to south, the aristocratic families, Zhou, Wu, Chen, and Huang.” Fu Hao’s eyes looked straight ahead as he spoke softly.
The sound of rain outside the car was loud, matching the noise made from the car’s engine. Fu Hao didn’t speak, and neither did Xing Conglian.
After a long time, the unshaven man parked his car on the side of the road and pulled on the handbrake. “Okay, then what?”
His tone was casual, so light, it was as if he didn’t care.
Fu Hao was speechless. He thought his words would give enough caution, but Xing Conglian didn’t even seem to take it to heart.
“Can you be serious here? These four families are involved in many industries and are extremely rich, okay?”
“So they have money, but they’re not spending it on me. What does that have to do with anything?”
“Then, why does it concern you?”
“Zhou, Wu… that Huang guy, how the hell did Lin Chen offend them? This has something to do with me.”
Fu Hao thought, ‘That’s my shixiong’s business and has nothing to do with you.’
“Can’t say.” He responded after thinking for a bit and shaking his head.
The school gate of the city’s Experimental Primary School was close at hand. Strong winds had blown branches all over the ground, creating a bleak scene in front of them.
Looking at such a scene could make anyone’s mood depressed.
“Because it can’t be said. Someone has issued a gag order.”
Xing Conglian took out a cigarette and put it in his mouth. He prepared to open the door to get out of the car.
As soon as he took one step out, he heard the person behind him ask, “Lao Xing, do you think humans are all created equal and that everyone’s life is worth the same?”
“Then is a thief’s life compared to a child’s life, or your life compared to Feng Peilin’s life, both worth the same?”
In this world, there were many questions that were difficult to answer and could leave many people speechless.
At the police station, in the room, there were only two people left.
The female police officer who originally wanted to stay and tidy up was driven out of the room by the parachuted inspector before she could even move a chair.
Lin Chen felt someone handing him a glass of water that had just the right temperature—about 40 degrees.
The only person who could maintain an accurate temperature of the water they drank was Huang Ze.
Knowing that it was Huang Ze, he retracted his fingers from the paper cup, causing just the warm water to spill on the ground, splashing everywhere. Some even got on Huang Ze’s trousers.
Following the spilled water, Huang Ze laughed. “You’re sick.”
Lin Chen felt a little dizzy. There was a tinge of burning on his face before a cold hand was pressed to his forehead. That was followed by a smiling voice. “High fever. 39.5 degrees.”
His smile was ambiguous, and his movements were intimate. He was different from the cold-faced inspector just now as his face had softened, leaving only the pair of slender phoenix eyes that still looked sharp and so cold that they could freeze water.
“Huang Ze, it’s tiring for you to be like this.” Lin Chen didn’t push away Huang Ze’s hand. It would look too pretentious, so instead he turned his head slightly and closed his eyes.
Huang Ze squatted down in front of him, put his hands around the armchairs, and almost encircled Lin Chen. He then asked, “How have you been these past three years?”
“If I had a good life, you would’ve picked me up by now and wouldn’t look so relieved, no?”
“I feel sorry for you,” Huang Ze said as he leaned forward again. The distance between them was so close that Lin Chen could feel the other’s cold breath.
Inside the car, in front of the school.
The wind seemed to carry the salty scent of the ocean. Fu Hao slowly took in a deep breath then spoke to Xing Conglian. “Let’s take an example. Suppose there are 20 children who, for some reason, were left to play alone on the railroad tracks. Among them, 4 of them are children of rich families. They are smart and elites of the industry. They advised other children that although it seems abandoned here, there may be trains passing by on the railroad tracks where they were, so they should go to another track that was abandoned as it’s much safer there. However, the remaining 16 children, for some reason, didn’t listen to this advice. So, the 4 smart kids walked alone to the abandoned tracks. As a result, a train came. If at this time you have the opportunity to stand by the switcher of the tracks, you can choose to let the train turn to the abandoned tracks and sacrifice 4 children in order to save more, or, if you don’t, more children will die.” Fu Hao looked at Xing Conglian’s back and smiled with difficulty. “Well, if you encountered such a thing, what would you do?*”
*See Kinky Thoughts.
Xing Conglian’s hair was wet from the rain. The half of his body that was sticking out of the car door was also soaked. He maintained this posture, frozen like a stone sculpture, as if he was lost in thought.
Finally, he took out his lighter and flicked it, but it didn’t light.
“I can’t answer this question.” With a fwip, the flames finally lit. He put the lighter close to his cigarette and held it there for a long time before it finally lit. He took a puff and exhaled, then said, “But I definitely admire someone who could make such a choice.”
While waiting for a response, Huang Ze looked at Lin Chen’s chapped lips. He thought if Lin Chen responded to him, he would get him another glass of water and force him to drink it.
“Not all questions in the world have answers.” Lin Chen stared into his eyes as his tone softened. “Not all answers can be distinguished between right and wrong.”
Huang Ze stood up abruptly. If he wasn’t still at the police station that was being so closely monitored, he would have grabbed Lin Chen by the neck by now.
Xing Conglian was smart. Of course, he knew the story that Fu Hao told wasn’t purely hypothetical. It was very likely that something similar to this had happened.
And because it was real, it was very heavy.
Any questions that tortured human nature were, by definition, heavy.
Because of the suspension of classes, there weren’t any students at the schools and few faculty members.
The class bell rang as usual as Xing Conglian extinguished his cigarette and followed school security to Feng Peilin’s office.
The big office was empty. Xing Conglian glanced over and, based on the desks full of textbooks and teaching aids, he recognized which desk belonged to Feng Peilin’s from a glance.
This was due to the fact that, of all the desks, there was only one that was very clean, with nothing on it but a book.
Xing Conglian put on his gloves, walked to the window, and picked up the book.
He opened the cover and saw a sentence written on the title page:
[A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them. – Jung*]
*Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Jung’s work has been influential in the fields of psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, psychology, and religious studies.
The font was beautiful. Each stroke was delicate, as if the person who was writing it was serious, but Xing Conglian could sense the ridicule from this seriousness.
Even without Lin Chen, he could imagine the posture of the writer sitting by the window, with the corner of his mouth slightly raised, while he wrote down this line.
Xing Conglian was expressionless as he turned the pages of the book. At this moment, a letter suddenly fell out.
The envelope was white, clean, and immaculate. It wasn’t sealed. Xing Conglian turned the envelope upside down and gently shook it, causing a handful of delicate white sand to sprinkle out. Other than that, there was nothing.
If the words written on the title page were a mockery, the content inside this envelop was a naked provocation.
The security guard brought a female teacher who wore her hair in a ponytail to Xing Conglian’s side and said, “Captain Xing, this is Teacher Xu, who works in the same office as Teacher Feng.”
“Oh, good.” Xing Conglian handed the book and envelope to Fu Hao and sat down with the female teacher.
“I would like to ask you a few questions about Teacher Feng.”
The female teacher frowned and pursed her lips tightly. She was nervous.
“How does Teacher Feng treat his students?”
“He’s very good to his students. The Chinese teacher is very personable and elegant, so the students like him.”
“What is Mr. Feng’s family situation? Do you know it?”
“Mr. Feng isn’t married, and because of this, he’s quite popular with the female students.”
“In regards to Mr. Feng’s words and actions, has there been anything about him that makes you think it’s a little off?” Xing Conglian asked.
“To say something is off…” The female teacher wrinkled her brows together, as if trying to remember something. “Teacher Feng would every day call his mother at a fixed time. Sometimes when he’s in class, when that time comes, he would run to the corridor and call her.”
The son was about 35–40 years old. The mother was about 65 years old and was extremely strict with her son.
Xing Conglian suddenly remembered Lin Chen’s inference and couldn’t help but look at Fu Hao.
“What else?” he continued to ask.
“And…” The teacher rubbed her nose before continuing, “Teacher Feng sometimes doesn’t pay much attention to people. He likes to sit by the window, alone, and in a daze.”
Xing Conglian moved the chair to the side, sat down on Feng Peilin’s desk, and looked out the window.
Then, he froze.
Seeing Xing Conglian petrified in front of the window, not saying anything for a long time, Fu Hao couldn’t help but nudge him. “What’s the matter, Lao Xing?”
“Feng Peilin is looking at Lin Chen…”
Xing Conglian pulled Fu Hao to a position that aligned with his own line of sight as he spoke.
What Fu Hao was talking about is similar to the trolley problem. It is an ethical dilemma where you’re presented with a problem of whether to sacrifice one person to save a larger number.
There is a runaway trolley barreling down the tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two (and only two) options:
- Do nothing, in which case the trolley will kill the five people on the main track.
- Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.
Which is the more ethical option? Or, more simply: What is the right thing to do?
My train of thoughts went two ways here… Either Huang Ze is Lin Chen’s old flame, or based on the story Fu Hao told, Lin Chen probably made some kind of decision that inadvertently killed the kids of the four elite families, thus causing Huang Ze to bear a terrible grudge against him… Or both actually.
Also, does Feng Peilin also have a thing for Lin Chen? It would be funny if all these cases revolved around people having the hots for him.
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