In fact, when the waitress mentioned Li Jingtian, her eyes darted, indicating she felt a little guilty.
Lin Chen didn’t have much idea about entertainment gossip, but he knew that Li Jingtian was a singer. A few days ago, because of some gossip, he was scolded by the fans of some big star.
He didn’t remember exactly why Li Jingtian was scolded. After all, when he was watching the news, he was sitting in Su Fengzi’s ward, enduring the other party’s long-winded ramblings that were far beyond any ordinary person. Gossip in the entertainment industry was nothing more than people being offended because someone said something, who was getting badly scolded by whose fans, or who and who did something bad and was photographed for it, causing an uproar among netizens.
In short, it was things that had nothing to do with him but would unintentionally attract him.
Lin Chen looked up and saw that the waitress was hesitant about trying to give out free tickets for a meal over 500 yen; he could only assume Li Jingtian’s popularity wasn’t very good.
“No, I still want this rice noodle platter.”
At this time, Wang Chao had finished flipping through the menu and waved his hand. He didn’t seem to have any intention of slaughtering Xing Conglian’s wallet for a meal.
As he spoke, he ordered the cheapest option on the entire menu, except for drinks, and then licked his lips, looking extremely happy.
The waitress’ face darkened. Only ordering staples at a restaurant was annoying behavior. However, seeing as the teenager had already closed the menu and had a firm attitude, she didn’t try to sell to him any longer.
Lin Chen was the next target. “Then, sir, what would you like?”
A certain someone with the most requirement for food had already made their choice, so following said person’s best choice, Lin Chen put down the teacup and simply said, “I’ll have the same.”
This time, the waitress couldn’t hold back herself. “Don’t you want to order more? Our specialty is Caiyun Zhinan. I highly recommend it…”
“No, no. I’ve already done some research. The other dishes in your store do not appear to be expensive, but the quality is quite low for the price. Simply put, it’s more about presentation than taste.” It was Wang Chao who spoke up rather than Lin Chen. “That Caiyun Zhinan is just some cut beef and sashimi that’s rolled up on some lettuce leaves to look like a peacock’s tail. What’s the use in making it look so fancy, unless you’re just trying to get reviews online…”
Lin Chen couldn’t help but want to laugh. Being too smart made it really easy to get into trouble. He stretched out his hand and tapped on the teenager’s head, motioning him to give the store some face.
Seeing this, the waitress turned directly to Lin Chen and asked him awkwardly, “Then, sir, would you like anything to drink?”
“A glass of orange juice,” Lin Chen replied.
“I’ll also have the rice noodle platter with a Coke.” Before the waitress could ask, Xing Conglian had rushed to answer in advance.
Seemingly defeated, the waitress didn’t bother to say anything else. She nodded, wrote down their order, and turned around and left.
Wang Chao was playing with the drinks menu. He opened and closed the transparent pages on both sides, seemingly having fun with it.
Perhaps it was because the three of them entered a fancy restaurant but only ordered staples that the couple sitting at the next table began to whisper to each other.
Anyway, it was mainly gossip.
“Are they saying that we’re poor?” Wang Chao closed the drinks menu as he asked Xing Conglian.
“Why are your ears so good?” Xing Conglian smiled and took a sip of tea.
“Because I grew up with all kinds of discrimination. I’m very keen on these kinds of cold remarks,” Wang Chao whispered.
“It doesn’t look like you’re mentally healthy. Who brought you up so well, Mr. Wang?” Xing Conglian continued to tease him.
“While they haven’t served the food yet, why don’t we just cancel the order and leave?” Wang Chao put down the drinks menu and suddenly tugged on Xing Conglian’s cuff.
“What’s wrong with you? Isn’t it because you want to eat rice noodles that you made a fuss to come here?” Xing Conglian stopped smiling and asked him seriously.
“Shit, what do you know? Don’t look into a teenager’s privacy, okay?” Wang Chao clutched his chest and shrank into the corner.
“Who’s the one that was watching a TV commercial and said excitedly, ‘Captain, that Caiyun rice noodle looks so good!’”
Xing Conglian vividly imitated Wang Chao’s mannerisms, causing the teenager to blush. “I-I-I’m not that greedy!”
“If you want to eat it, just eat it. We’re already here,” Xing Conglian said with a smile.
Lin Chen had been sitting quietly, listening to Xing Conglian’s comforting words. He raised his head and glanced at Wang Chao and asked, “Why do you suddenly want to leave?”
“I suddenly found them annoying.” As he spoke, Wang Chao began to fold the napkins on the table. “It’s fine to promote things, but I just want to eat rice noodles. She didn’t have to keep pushing it. Captain, I finally know why you like food stalls so much.”
After hearing this, Xing Conglian was left speechless. “Food stalls are good, but sometimes I want to eat with a bit of style, okay?”
“Why food stalls?” Lin Chen interrupted Xing Conglian.
“Food stalls don’t have so many people who care about what you eat.” Wang Chao folded his napkin into a rose and then unraveled it. “Captain, why don’t we just skip it?”
If this was an ordinary parent, they probably would have broken the baby bear’s legs, but Xing Conglian was actually happy. He rubbed Wang Chao’s head and said, “Finally, you know how to save money for dad. Dad’s very relieved.”
“Fuck off. Don’t take advantage of laozi.” The teenager knocked away Xing Conglian’s hand.
Lin Chen wanted to laugh. Wang Chao was like a poor child who was making a fuss to go to the restaurant but found that everything was too expensive when he saw the menu. Although the situation was different, the general mood was pretty similar.
Xing Conglian was also speechless. “So you’re now acting rebellious. Believe it or not, I will order every dish once.”
Xing Conglian spoke with such confidence that it made Lin Chen feel a rare moment of wanting to touch his forehead. He hurriedly interrupted Xing Conglian again and patted the teenager’s head. “Why do you care what others say?”
Wang Chao glanced back and said impatiently, “This makes me feel uncomfortable, as if someone is forcing me to make a choice.”
“Who’s forcing you? Isn’t the right to choose in your own hands?”
“I just think… Why do they care what I eat? If I’m happy just coming here to order a glass of orange juice… Why does it seem that if I order something less, I’ll get looked down on? What’s wrong with not ordering more?”
Wang Chao couldn’t continue.
“Yes, you’re right,” Lin Chen said. “If you think you want to eat rice noodles, then just eat it. This is a reasonable choice. For example, I think orange juice is good, so I ordered a glass. It’s the same principle. This is just eating, so just be casual about it.”
“I say, Mr. Wang, have you been experiencing adolescent depression recently?” Xing Conglian tapped Wang Chao on the head with his chopsticks. “This is essentially a matter of ‘it’s none of my business’ and ‘it’s none of their business’. Most trouble in the world could be solved with just these two sentences. Why are you so entangled with this kind of thing? Is it because you’ve been reading less lately?”
Lin Chen thought Wang Chao would retort again, but the teenager took the sentence seriously and built on it. “So what you mean is, what I eat is none of their business, and what they say about me behind my back is none of my business?”
After he finished speaking, Wang Chao seemed to suddenly realize something and patted the table lightly. “Captain, how do you know I haven’t been studying recently? Have I become a bit dumber?”
“Indeed. Look at how long it’s been since you borrowed a book.”
The conversation between the two switched quickly. Lin Chen would be very confused now if he hadn’t gotten used to this style a long time ago.
The topic had shifted from rice noodles to library books.
Lin Chen was quite surprised. In fact, Xing Conglian didn’t really have any books at home, and Wang Chao seemed more into games than reading. Now that he heard them discussing the topic of books, he needed a moment to collect his thoughts before realizing that they were talking about reading.
“Are you monitoring my records on my library card?” Wang Chao suddenly sat up straight.
“I need to monitor it since all I see is you playing games. Every day and night, all I hear next door is pew pew pew,” Xing Conglian chided.
“Isn’t that because you haven’t given me a book list in a long time?”
“You’re blaming me?”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
At this moment, Lin Chen noticed Xing Conglian looking at him. He held his water cup to meet Xing Conglian’s gaze.
“In the future, let your brother A’Chen give you a book list. You’re not under my control anymore.”
Hearing what Xing Conglian said, Lin Chen raised his brows, indicating he didn’t understand. “What?”
“It’s just seven books a month. That’s it,” Wang Chao said.
Seven books a month would be a little over eighty books a year. Although that number seemed like a lot, it was within a doable range. The key point was that this number was the upper limit of the number of books that could be borrowed with a single library card per month.
“Your captain made you a book list for you to borrow from the library?”
“That’s right. Captain is stingy!” Wang Chao looked at his boss as if he had so many grievances that it couldn’t be written down. “But you can’t blame him too much. It’s mainly because we don’t live in a place for very long, so buying books would be wasteful. Moving is troublesome, so I usually go to the library to borrow them, but now…”
Xing Conglian coughed softly, interrupting Wang Chao’s words. He lifted his chin to see the waitress from earlier bringing them rice noodles.
Wang Chao rubbed his hands happily, reached out for the dish, and started eating, forgetting what he was about to say.
Lin Chen looked at the captain of the police criminal division sitting opposite of him and saw that the other party had slightly bowed his head, as if his attention was completely fixated on the rice noodles. He was gobbling it up, seemingly unafraid that it was too hot.
It was just that his actions weren’t sincere enough, and that interruption was so obvious that it made things quite awkward.
It was interesting that they had no fixed residence for several years, but he still thought about that child’s education.
Lin Chen shook his head. Everyone had their own secrets. No matter how close you were and how many friends you made, you would still have some things that you didn’t want the other party to know.
Perhaps this was the dark side of human nature, or maybe it was unspeakable desires. In short, having reservations didn’t mean that Xing Conglian didn’t trust him. If there was no trust, then they wouldn’t have such a close relationship.
Still, there were things that couldn’t be said, and everyone had their reasons for it.
Lin Chen was calm about this. He suddenly remembered that night at the lake. Xing Conglian still didn’t ask him about Huang Ze and his past with the Chen family, let alone about the case back then.
Although he said he would answer his questions when they go for a drink…
Lin Chen suddenly felt that Su Fengzi was right in what he said.
After the meal, the rain became heavier.
It certainly wasn’t a good choice to go home at that time. Unprecedentedly, Comrade Xiao Wang Chao didn’t clamor to go to the Great World Amusement Park on the third floor but instead dragged them to the shopping mall.
The smooth floor tiles reflected the soft light as they walked past spotlights in the glass window.
Wang Chao seemed exhausted as he walked very slowly. He occasionally would look around, then lower his head like he was counting, trying to figure something out.
“What’s wrong with him?” Lin Chen glanced at Xing Conglian and asked.
“There are many possibilities…” Xing Conglian sighed helplessly. “The first possibility is he’s playing Assassin’s Creed in his head. The second is that he’s calculating how to capture this mall in the shortest time, and…”
Truly, that kid couldn’t rest for a moment. Lin Chen asked, “What else?”
“And observing the cameras and calculating the coverage and blind spots.”
“Bingo. Captain, you’re so smart!” Wang Chao suddenly stopped in front of a huge coconut tree in the hall and looked up at it as he spoke.
The giant tree was under an atrium. The top of the tree reached the fourth floor. A huge poster was hung on it. On the poster was a man with a bright smile and an outstretched hand, as if greeting visitors from all over the world.
“On May 8th, Li Jingtian invites you to come and watch the opening ceremony of Ansheng International Shopping Mall.” Wang Chao read the words on the poster. “It turns out this place is just in its soft opening… So this fan meeting is actually a gimmick for the opening ceremony?”
“Probably. What’s wrong?” Lin Chen asked.
“Nothing. It’s just that this poster is so big that it’s blocking the wide-angle surveillance.”
Yanjia Lane was long. It took about 1.5 kilometers to walk from one end to the other. Because the alley was so long and Hongjing was an old city, this alley almost became a bridge between classical and modern Hongjing. At one end of the alley was a quiet and ancient market, while at the other end was an upscale commercial district that looked like it was paved in gold.
While it may look artistic now, a year ago, Yanjia Lane was just an ordinary, dilapidated street. Later, it was remodeled and transformed into a literary arts town.
When he got to the door of his house, Xing Conglian said that he wanted to go inside and change first. It wasn’t good for him to go to the mall in his officer’s uniform. Lin Chen took Wang Chao to the shop opposite of the house to take shelter from the rain while they waited for him.
Opposite their home was an antique shop.
Lin Chen didn’t know when he had gotten used to the concept of “their home” or “our home”. In fact, Unit 3 on Yanjia Lane wasn’t his home. He was only a tenant who was temporarily living there and didn’t pay any rent, but it was strange that since the first day he moved in, he and Xing Conglian seemed to be on the same level and the matter of rent had never been mentioned.
Perhaps it was because they both felt strange about needing to pay each other.
Lin Chen stepped into the shop and lifted up the feng shui curtain hanging at the door of the antique store. A fragrance wafted from the shop.
Wang Chao was closing the umbrella when he smelled the slight fragrance. The teenager inhaled several times and then subconsciously licked his lips.
The owners were an old couple in their seventies. Rather than saying they sold antiques, it was more appropriate to say they rented the store so they could casually have something to do. Therefore, there was nothing in the shop except for a few pieces of porcelain and an antique cabinet.
The porcelain appeared to be very valuable, but it was possible that they were modern forgeries. Either way, Lin Chen couldn’t assess the value of those things.
Everything in the store, whether it was the antiques or the people, had a very casual feel to it, which was extremely suitable for being a neighbor to Xing Conglian.
Usually, people would gather toward their likeness.
Lin Chen put down the curtain and walked into the store.
The shopkeeper was an old man who was sitting cross-legged by the bamboo table and drinking tea. When he saw them enter, the old man greeted them happily, patted the side of the bamboo table, and shouted to Wang Chao, “Yo, Mr. Wang. Come to play some chess?”
“Not today. We’re just hiding from the rain for a bit before we head out to dinner.” Wang Chao sniffled and waved his hand at the old man. He then wandered around the store familiarly; first pretending to look at the porcelain for a while, then walking straight to the corner of the shop.
Under the window decorated with flowers, there was a small coal stove that had a pot of roasted meat and bamboo shoots bubbling from it.
The heat and smell were dense in the dusky rainy season, which could especially stir the stomach’s cravings.
The shopkeeper’s wife was sitting on a rocking chair by the fireside. The old lady was holding a fan in her hand as she gently fanned herself. When she saw Wang Chao enter the store, the corners of her mouth lifted and she was already smiling, but she pretended to close her eyes and kept fanning herself without speaking.
Wang Chao circled the window twice like a headless fly and then simply squatted down by the pot.
Seeing that he was focused on the pot, the old lady opened her eyes with satisfaction and asked, “Want to eat?”
However, Wang Chao didn’t answer her and instead looked back at Lin Chen.
The teenager’s eyes were full of longing, which gave Lin Chen the feeling as if he was taking out a cub to ask for snacks. He looked at the old man helplessly, picked up the tea that the old man had just poured for him from the table, took a sip, and then nodded helplessly.
After getting permission, Wang Chao hugged the old lady’s thigh and said affectionately, “Grandma Gao, I haven’t eaten lunch. I’m so hungry.”
“Go and get a bowl from the kitchen and help yourself!” The old woman happily patted Wang Chao on the head with her fan and sat up straight.
The next second felt like lightning had struck or a whirlwind had passed through. In short, Wang Chao ran out from the kitchen with a bowl in his arms and held it up as the old lady selected the best cut of meat for him and served him a large bowl. Seeing this made the old man’s heart ache.
Then, the teenager quickly ate the entire bowl of roasted meat and bamboo shoots with outstanding speed until there was nothing left in the bowl. At the end, he ran to the kitchen again and washed the bowl before Xing Conglian came.
Recalling that last time they managed to get a free meal from the shop, it probably succeeded because of Wang Chao’s ability to sell meng and being so thick-skinned to the point of being shameless. In short, although it was a bit embarrassing, Lin Chen was still thankful.
Lin Chen sighed, stood up from the bamboo mat, and bid goodbye to the shopkeeper.
“Thank you, Grandma Gao, Grandpa Gao. Your dishes are 10,000 times better than Auntie Zhou’s!”
As they left, the teenager blew a kiss to the old lady as he spoke.
“Then come back again and eat more next time! Grandma will save some for you!” The old lady was thoroughly coaxed as she looked at their backs with a grin from ear to ear.
When Xing Conglian came out, the rain was a bit lighter.
He changed into a long black windbreaker and wore a simple, smoky gray t-shirt. This was a common outfit, but it may be because Xing Conglian had gotten plenty of good sleep recently that he was in high spirits, or perhaps it was because he didn’t usually wear casual clothes that the sight was a bit amazing, since it was so rare.
Of course, Lin Chen thought to himself that it was also possible that it may just be himself who was in a good mood because he felt the man standing in front of the door holding an umbrella was particularly pleasing to the eyes.
With black trousers and low-cut leather boots, Lin Chen looked at him from head to toe and felt it was rare for him to have an inexplicable sense of vanity.
Wang Chao said in an impatient tone, “Captain, you’re just going to swipe your card. Do you need to dress like this?”
“What’s wrong with laozi dressing like this? Isn’t it just casual clothes?” Xing Conglian asked snidely as he brushed his hair.
“No, this outfit must be very expressive, right?!” Wang Chao leaned over and touched Xing Conglian’s windbreaker as he smacked his lips.
“Last year’s style. It was discounted, and I got it for only 500 yuan.”
“I don’t believe you!”
“Probably because of my good temperament?” Xing Conglian patted Wang Chao on the shoulder and said, “You can’t deny that there are people in this world who can wear ordinary clothes with high-end quality just because all you wear are ready-made children’s clothes, kid.”
“I’m 179! Children’s clothes, my ass!” Wang Chao retorted angrily.
Like a man whose pride had been bruised, Wang Chao handed Lin Chen the umbrella, then jumped on Xing Conglian’s back and forcibly looked through the collar of the windbreaker to find the label.
Xing Conglian arched his back. Despite his dissatisfaction, he continued to support the boy’s ass, fearful that the teenager would fall.
The next moment, the teenager screamed.
“Shit, it’s Golden Deer. Captain, how can this be? You’re too miserable.”
Wang Chao jumped down from Xing Conglian’s back and took two steps back, holding a look of disbelief as he pointed to Xing Conglian’s windbreaker. “Captain, why are you living in such misery? Is it because of the sharp drop in international crude oil recently? Precious metals had plummeted, so that’s why you’ve fallen to this point?!”
Xing Conglian didn’t bother to pay attention to him. He dusted off his windbreaker calmly and said cherishingly, “What’s wrong with Golden Deer? It’s a famous domestic brand. They have thousands of stores. You better be careful when touching it!”
Lin Chen couldn’t help but narrow his eyes as he looked at the two oily paw prints that had been left on Xing Conglian’s clothes.
Seeing that Wang Chao was still acting aggrieved, Lin Chen turned around and hid under the umbrella while shaking his head sadly, trying to stay as far away from Xing Conglian as possible.
“It’s too miserable. Too miserable. Later, I’ll pick up a new outfit for you. You can think of it as condolences for a single old man.”
Lin Chen was dragged by Wang Chao, who quickly hurried his steps. A short moment later, Xing Conglian’s angry shouts soon came from behind. “Wang Chao, did you put your handprint on laozi’s clothes?”
“It’s not me. Which eye did you see me doing it?”
Before he finished speaking, Xing Conglian had grabbed the back of Wang Chao’s neck violently.
He dragged the teenager out from under the umbrella without hesitation and pointed to the surveillance camera at the entrance of the small road that they had just passed. “Mr. Wang, please look carefully. What’s there? Please don’t quibble, alright?”
“Are you sure you can pull up the video?” Wang Chao glanced at the camera as he replied in disdain.
Thinking of the teenager’s uninhibited abilities, Xing Conglian glared at him. “Why are your hands and mouth so greasy?” He looked at the boy’s face as he suddenly pointed it out.
“I ate a bowl of roasted meat and dried bamboo shoots.”
“Grandma Gao gave it to me!”
“Grandma Gao from across our house?”
“Why didn’t you say so earlier?!” Xing Conglian felt heartbroken, wishing he could go back and eat a bowl.
“I deliberately didn’t tell you!”
Another burst of argument commenced. Lin Chen held the umbrella as he watched them continue fighting.
Although there was no one else on the old street in the evening but them, perhaps it was the sound of footsteps around him, or it might be that Wang Chao and Xing Conglian were being so noisy, but Lin Chen didn’t feel the slightest sense of loneliness or desolation.
How could he put it? It seemed that the cold, rainy season had become moist and gentle.
The only problem was that their original 10-minute trip would be much longer, but there was nothing wrong with that.
By the time they got to the other end of Yanjia Lane, it was completely dark.
Because of the darkness, the high-rise buildings and neon lights in the distance complemented each other, making people feel as if they had entered another world.
Wang Chao adjusted his cellphone navigation and showed Xing Conglian the location of the new shopping mall. Not long after, a shopping mall that had just opened appeared within their sights.
Although it had just opened, there were already many customers coming in and out of the new mall.
Inadvertently, Lin Chen looked up the name of the mall and was a little surprised.
If he had known previously that the new shopping mall Wang Chao wanted to go to was called “Ansheng International”, he would have probably tried to trick them into getting takeout rather than come here.
However, when he looked at the people beside him, it seemed that they didn’t know or care about it, and he was suddenly relieved.
Besides, it was just a meal, so why care who owned the mall?
Xing Conglian and Wang Chao, adhering to the good tradition of police officers who were not picky about their food, had no opinion on the selection of a restaurant based on review websites, so in the end, they settled for a Yunnan restaurant called Caiyunjian.
“Wow, wow! This phoenix looks awesome!”
Comrade Wang Chao flipped through the menu and occasionally would burst into a gush of excitement.
Lin Chen took the tea that Xing Conglian poured for him, took half a sip, and leaned over to look at the menu.
This restaurant seemed to be taking the route of specialty dishes. The pictures of each dish on the menu looked exotic and gorgeous. The plates were huge and decorated with exaggerated peacock heads, making them look more expensive than delicious.
Despite that, the price of each item was actually moderate, so it was no wonder the evaluation was fair.
Lin Chen took another sip of tea and suddenly heard the soft voice of the waitress at his side. “Since there are three people, I recommend you go with our special three-person set meal. Discounted, that would be 488 yen. If you add on dessert, it’ll only be 500 yen, and we’ll also add in two meet-and-greet tickets.”
“What kind of meet and greet tickets?” Wang Chao’s eyes suddenly lighted up.
“It’s front row seats for Mr. Li Jingtian’s fan meeting held tomorrow in the lobby of the first floor of our Ansheng International Mall…”
“Eh, Li Jingtian. Isn’t that the singer who had been badly scolded recently?”
When Wang Chao heard it wasn’t a beautiful girl group, he raised his head and replied with disappointment.
The weather during the change of seasons was always strange.
For example, when he left home in the morning, the sky was still clear, but it started pouring on the way home. This kind of thing was common.
In front of the long convoy blocking the city, Xing Conglian knocked on the window next to the driver’s seat with irritability. The window was covered with fog, and there was an endless electronic sound of a mobile game playing in his ears. The rain was still falling, and there was no sign of it stopping.
“Can’t you stop for a while?” Xing Conglian turned his head and spoke impatiently to the teenager sitting in the front passenger seat.
“Can’t you smoke less?” Wang Chao only raised his eyes and glanced at the cigarette in Xing Conglian’s hand, then responded back disdainfully.
Xing Conglian was about to explode, but he tried his best to tell himself not to care about the words of a rebellious teenager.
He took a deep breath and followed the self-regulation method Lin Chen had taught him.
Then he smacked Wang Chao’s head.
“Ow! Child abuse!”
The teenager’s scream was mixed with the electronic sounds coming from his mobile game, echoing in the car.
On the way home from work, everything was irritating without Lin Chen…
Xing Conglian pressed the car radio, and gentle piano music flowed out. He unbuttoned his collar, rolled up the cuffs of his shirt, and lowered the car window a little, ready to let the music soothe his irritable emotions.
But soon, specifically at the moment when the red light in front turned green, the soft piano sound suddenly turned into raging rock music. The drums and roars were deafening, startling Xing Conglian. A feeling of hot steam rushed up the back of his neck to the top of his head. He hurriedly glanced at the car audio. Fortunately, the audio didn’t explode. He studied the broadcast and the control panel and found there were no issues. Just when he wanted to summon Wang Chao to check out the problem, he found that Wang Chao’s phone had been plugged into the car audio at some point, and the initiator himself, at this moment, was bouncing up and down to the grungy music at high volume.
Xing Conglian took a deep breath again…
Then he silently unplugged the cable.
Wang Chao suddenly settled down and continued to stare at him with a look that said, “Bro, what the hell are you doing?”
Xing Conglian didn’t want to use violence too often, so as an adult, he could only look away.
Naturally, the tastes in music of an older man and a teenager were usually vastly different, but usually this kind of contradiction could be reconciled. For example, Lin Chen would choose songs that suited Xing Conglian’s taste from the cloud song list. Sometimes it was light music, and sometimes it was Cantonese. Lin Chen’s taste was always good, so Xing Conglian naturally didn’t have any objections.
If Wang Chao got impatient after listening for a while and started to make noise, at that time, Lin Chen would plug in the audio cable on Wang Chao’s phone, turn down the volume, and then accompany Xing Conglian to talk.
Xing Conglian discovered that, in the end, the reason for his irritability now was that no one was talking to him while he was driving.
Should he propose that Lin Chen take fewer days of sick leave…?
He thought this silently, and from the corner of his eyes, he saw Wang Chao’s hand still secretly reaching for the connection wire.
Then there was a crisp sound.
In the next second, the bold brat finally shrank back to his seat with his hands covering his head and began to whine until his heart felt a bit better.
“Mr. Xing, do you know doing this makes it look like you’re having a manic episode?!” Wang Chao hid in the corner as he yelled at Xing Conglian.
“Your brother A’Chen should know best whether I’m manic or not.”
“Is that how you’re addressing him now?”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Not only can I call him A’Chen, I can also call him Chen. Can you?”
“Chen, Chen, Chen, Chen, Chen, Chen!”
“Wang Chao, how old are you? So childish. Do you have the guts to go to your brother A’Chen and call him that?”
“Xing Conglian, I’m 18 this year and past the age where I would be so violently brain-dead!”
“Then why haven’t you passed the age of rubbing against your guardian’s car every day?”
“Because the word guardian is already past tense. I’m rubbing against my boss’ car. Do you have any comments?”
“As a democratic and considerate boss, I don’t have any complaints about dropping off my subordinate on the way home, but I also hope that my subordinates will be conscious of being a passenger in my car and don’t always provoke their boss.”
“But we’re all in this car. Why should we listen to songs that only you want to hear?”
“Because this is laozi’s car. If you don’t want to sit in this car, go and walk.”
In the end, any quarrel between him and Wang Chao would always come down to who had the money and who was the boss.
Tsk. It’s not bad to be rich. After all, you can buy a car.
Xing Conglian turned the steering wheel and finally saw the parking lot outside of Yanjia Lane.
“Captain, you sure have a shitty car. Did you remember to bring an umbrella?”
Suddenly, the annoying kid sitting in the front passenger seat began to make noise again.
Xing Conglian recalled for a while. It seemed that, because of the rain yesterday, they took out the umbrellas with them when he got out of the car. It looked sunny this morning, and Lin Chen was still sleeping, so no one reminded them to bring an umbrella.
In the end, it was because Lin Chen didn’t remind him that they forgot to bring their umbrellas.
“Why didn’t you remember to bring it?” Xing Conglian questioned.
“Because it’s like this. The clothes I’m wearing are waterproof, and I wear hats so I can just rush home in three minutes without fear of rain,” Wang Chao said as he pulled out a cap from his backpack and put it on. He then pointed to his backpack and said, “The backpack is also waterproof. It’s quite high-end, no? Unlike some people who have to live in a house deep in an old alley. What’s the use of having a garden when you can’t even drive the car to the door…”
Xing Conglian continued taking deep breaths. After all, beating a child wasn’t an honorable thing. He had to restrain himself…
He controlled his hand, patiently followed the queue of cars forward, and finally drove into the parking lot. When the railing of the car was raised, he suddenly saw someone waiting under the willow tree by the parking lot.
Lin Chen was wearing home clothes and had a simple coat on, holding a black umbrella while waiting for them in the rain.
This was a very strange feeling, but the moment he saw Lin Chen, he suddenly felt as if there was a sudden wind in the air or someone had breathed into his heart, and all the irritability in it had suddenly disappeared.
Even Wang Chao suddenly stopped talking.
He pulled the car up to the parking space as Lin Chen walked towards them with an umbrella.
Before Xing Conglian could stop the car, the annoying kid sitting in the front passenger seat unbuckled his seatbelt, opened the door, and rushed out.
“A’Chen, A’Chen, A’Chen, why are you here? Have you been waiting for a long time? I have already scolded the captain for you. Who made him drive so slowly? Older men are so useless!”
The teenager’s voice was loud and clear, and it echoed through the parking lot. Xing Conglian had just lowered the car window and was about to greet Lin Chen.
Lin Chen patted the boy’s black hair and moved the umbrella over, then glanced up at Xing Conglian and said, “Don’t just say all older men are useless.”
Tsk. As expected of Lin Chen. He’s really good at educating children.
Hearing this, Xing Conglian pulled the handbrake with satisfaction, opened the door, and got out of the car.
“How long have you been waiting? Why didn’t you call me?”
Xing Conglian stretched out his hand and took the umbrella that Lin Chen handed over, then opened it.
“Not long. I checked the traffic conditions in advance and calculated the time you would get here.”
Because of his hand injury, Lin Chen could only walk on the outermost side, while Wang Chao held the umbrella for him while blocking the middle.
“A’Chen, you’re so smart, unlike the Captain!”
After hearing what Lin Chen said, that brat Wang Chao quickly and doggedly flattered him and stole his lines.
Xing Conglian held the handle of the umbrella and walked a little further away from them, then looked back at Lin Chen.
However, Lin Chen didn’t continue the conversation and instead glanced at him curiously, then asked Wang Chao, “What happened on the way?”
“Nothing much. It’s just that the Captain kept hitting me and threatened to kick me out of the car and walk!”
“Hey, are you the villain who sues his victim first*?”
*(恶人先告状) Proverb referring to a bad person being the first to tell or distort the facts.
“I’m young. Don’t you think I should be?”
“Wang Chao, although you grew up abroad, the traditional virtue of Chinese culture is to respect your elders and cherish the young. Let me emphasize, you need to respect your elders!”
“So you’re finally admitting that you’re old!”
Why were children like this nowadays? It made it impossible for him not to beat them!
Xing Conglian curled his fingers and was about to smack Wang Chao in the head, but suddenly realized that the person walking beside him had changed to Lin Chen, or that he had subconsciously walked to Lin Chen’s side and held his umbrella for him at some point.
“Proper quarrels help cultivate feelings.” Lin Chen raised his brows and said, “It’s quite interesting watching you two. You guys continue. Don’t mind me.”
Obviously, he didn’t intend to stop them, but after Lin Chen finished speaking, Wang Chao shut up. He glanced at Lin Chen cautiously, and his eyes flickered.
The surrounding area became quiet in an instant, with only the sound of raindrops splashing on the umbrella. The alley became tranquil, giving off a calm vibe as if there were a sweet aroma.
Xing Conglian didn’t want to talk anymore.
“A’Chen, what are we having for dinner?”
Finally, Wang Chao seemed to have thought about something for a long time and then suddenly found something to talk about and spoke up.
Xing Conglian finally caught the opportunity and smacked him. “Can’t you cook? Your brother A’Chen still has a cast on his hand. Do you still want him to cook for you? How useful you are!”
“Aren’t you the same?” Wang Chao retorted.
Lin Chen sighed almost inaudibly and asked, “What about Chen Ji fried noodles?”
“No good.” Wang Chao and Xing Conglian spoke in unison this time.
“Or Auntie Zhou’s wontons?”
“If I eat Auntie Zhou’s takeout again, it’ll be the 117th time I’ve eaten at Auntie Zhou!” Wang Chao moaned.
“What about Master Kang’s braised beef noodles? That’s a classic.”
“I finished the last bag last night.” Xing Conglian silently raised his hands.
“Then what to do?”
“A new shopping mall has opened in the CBD. A’Chen, shall we go there and get something to eat?” When Wang Chao said this, his eyes lit up. “Captain, swipe your card!”
“Per capita can’t exceed 100. I took a few days off this month, so my salary is a bit low,” Xing Conglian said bitterly.
“In the end, you were sent to the hospital by him?” Su Fengzi laid on the hospital bed and yawned as he asked Lin Chen. Lin Chen felt as if Su Fengzi was about to roll his eyes to express his disdain.
Looking at his friend, who was injured and had to stay overnight, Lin Chen avoided his gaze at the injured hand.
Just a moment ago, after finishing his ideological education on Jiang Chao, Xing Conglian ordered Jiang Chao’s officers to take him to the hospital in order to have his hand re-examined. It seemed that Xing Conglian didn’t believe the excuse about the orthopedic professor.
While Lin Chen went, Xing Conglian and Wang Chao stayed behind at the scene to deal with the follow-ups.
“In other words, just because the live broadcast screen lit up again, you have been making a fuss all this time and now just came to the hospital to visit me?” Su Fengzi was clearly dissatisfied, as he said this in an aggravated tone.
“Your injuries aren’t even a big deal. Do you have to be so plaintive?” Lin Chen looked up at the clock on the wall. It was only past nine. Ignoring the time he spent with Xing Conglian, there was still an hour left before visitation ended.
“How can you say it’s not a big deal. If you don’t come, who will peel apples for me?” Su Fengzi crossed his long legs and pressed the remote control in his hand. He changed the channel and then put the remote control down again, then took an apple from the bedside table and handed it to Lin Chen. “You weren’t like this before.”
Lin Chen wasn’t sure if it was because of his injuries or because he came late, but Su Fengzi was full of resentment right now. As he spoke, he sadly raised his right hand, wrapped in gauze, to show his “work injury”.
Lin Chen tugged at the corner of his mouth, glanced at the plaster on Su Fengzi’s hand, and then stuffed the apple back into the fruit basket. “Of course, you know, I have already moved on.”
Su Fengzi didn’t expect this kind of response and was silent for a moment, then said, “Mr. Lin, honestly, don’t you think that’s a bit shameless?”
“And you’re too unfeeling for me.”
“The cabbage I worked so hard to raise has been crushed by pigs*.”
*Refers to a good thing ruined. || Basically, he’s saying Lin Chen (the good thing) is ruined (because he’s fallen in love with a pig (Xing Conglian)).
“The water’s been poured out by married children*.”
*Metaphor refers to after a daughter gets married, she no longer has a relationship with her original family.
Lin Chen looked at the entertainment news being broadcast on TV as he replied casually.
It seemed to be news about a certain singer saying something inappropriate and angering some music fans. Lin Chen hadn’t seen this kind of entertainment gossip in a long time and occasionally found it very interesting. After the anchor finished talking about the key points of the debate between the fans of both sides, Lin Chen realized that the person lying in bed hadn’t spoken.
He turned his head and found that Su Fengzi was looking at him solemnly.
“You weren’t in this state after finishing a case before,” Su Fengzi said calmly.
“What state was I in before, and what state am I in now?” Lin Chen asked.
“You used to lock yourself up silently for many days and then lie to me, so I had to order food to be delivered to you. Now that you’ve moved on, when will you pay me back those meals?”
“In the past, there were too many things that couldn’t be figured out. What about now?” Lin Chen quietly changed the topic from the money owed for food.
But how could a person like Su Fengzi do what he wanted. “So, have you figured out anything about Huang Weiwei’s death?” Su Fengzi asked.
His gaze was rarely serious, as if someone had popped his balloon when he was happily playing with it in the playground or was walking down a street when he got splashed with cold water out of nowhere. Lin Chen lowered his eyes, staring at the snow-white floor tiles for about three seconds, and felt that cold water was stirring in his bones, giving him a chilling pain.
He clenched his fist with difficulty and took a deep breath. Unlike when facing Huang Ze, when he suddenly heard the mention of that name again, those fragmented images emerged one by one and replayed those remorseful moments in his head. He once again held the fleeting thought about turning back the clock and changing the past.
Of course, this was a delusion—a very, unhealthy, delusion.
Lin Chen discovered that he had to mobilize all his psychological adjustment knowledge before he could suppress those emotions again.
“Fengzi, I found that you have a very serious problem.” Lin Chen covered his eyes and tried to wrap up those pictures again.
“Are you trying to boast that I’m too understanding?”
“No, I mean, you really know which pot to close and which one to lift*.”
*(哪壶不开提哪壶) Metaphor referring to one should not talk about other people’s private shortcomings. You should know what should and shouldn’t be said.
“Didn’t your highly respected teacher teach you to forcibly suppress unpleasant memories without trying to solve them? Then it will always be there, and over time, it will cause you mental illness. At that time, it’ll be hard to return. Even the best psychiatrists won’t be able to cure you at that point,” Su Fengzi said solemnly.
“But how can I solve it?” Lin Chen asked rhetorically.
In this world or in life, there were always hurdles that couldn’t be overcome or problems that couldn’t be solved because they were too difficult, so what else could he do except bypass them?
“You never talked to your police officer about the kidnapping and murder case?”
“Because he never asked me.”
Su Fengzi sat up straight in disbelief and asked again, “Why?!”
“Why are you so gossipy?” Lin Chen asked with a frown.
“I heard that you ran into Huang Ze, right? Don’t you think Xing Conglian would find it strange the way Huang Ze treats you like a pervert? The way he torments you to get you to beg and plead? If he never asked about the case back then, there are only two possibilities. Either he’s incredibly tolerant or he doesn’t care about you at all…” Su Fengzi trailed off. His eyes flickered, as if there was something in them, and he ended with a smile. “I think you really have to work hard for this unrequited love.”
Lin Chen was speechless.
In the end, Su Fengzi was Su Fengzi; too keen and sharp. He probably wanted to say and ask those things just now when they first met again, but they encountered a difficult case, so he could only hold back for a few hours before he could gossip. It was no wonder he held such deep resentment.
“Actually, there’s a third possibility.” Lin Chen shook his head.
“Because secrets need to be exchanged with each other.” Lin Chen walked to the end of the bed, slowly adjusted Su Fengzi’s hospital bed, turned off the TV, pressed the patient, who wanted to struggle to sit up, down on the bed, and finally covered him with a thin blanket. “You don’t have to make it complicated. The reason he didn’t ask me is simple. Because he himself has too many secrets that can’t be told.”
Lin Chen sat down by the hospital bed again and dimmed the bedside lamp.
Thinking about that room keycard, those inexplicable cameras, and Wang Chao’s strange but gifted background, how could Xing Conglian be just an ordinary police officer?
But right now, he was really just an ordinary policeman, but there must be many stories behind him—many that weren’t told.
Of course, Lin Chen also wanted to know those stories, but telling them and listening to them required the right timing. Perhaps it was over a glass of wine, or maybe over a cup of tea, or maybe when they went out late at night and one person turned left while the other went right, but somehow, they still ended up meeting. Unfortunately, such an encounter had yet to come. It wasn’t the right time for them to meet yet, and it was possible that such a time would never occur in their lives.
If they couldn’t be honest with each other, then maintaining an appropriate distance from each other’s privacy was the minimum respect. At the very least, he thought this was what Xing Conglian was doing to him.
“It’s really not interesting seeing you guys like this.” It took a while before Su Fengzi replied.
“I think it’s quite interesting.”
“Where’s the fun?”
The interesting thing was that if he hadn’t reached such a moment, he could always fantasize about Xing Conglian. That was all.
“Tsk, you’ve really moved on. Are you going to pay me back for all the meals in college?” Su Fengzi rolled over and turned his back towards him.
“Why are you so philistine?” Lin Chen asked with a smile.
“I’m really sad. What’s so good about Xing Conglian?”
“Su Fengzi, how could you ask this when you write those novels for those little girls?”
“Then I’ll change the question. What’s wrong with Xing Conglian?”
Lin Chen thought for a while but said, “Well, he does have a strong desire for control.”
“Oh, a person with a strong desire for control must also possess quite strong abilities.”
Lin Chen took a bite out of the apple and found that it wasn’t surprising that this kind of thing came out of Su Fengzi’s mouth. “Well, it’s possible, but I haven’t yet experienced it.”
When Lin Chen walked out of the hospital, he couldn’t remember what he and Su Fengzi talked about in the dimly lit ward.
It was some boring conversation that could be written in any third-rate romance novel.
As the night wind blew, Lin Chen suddenly realized that Su Fengzi was probably using him as material, which was why he asked so many weird questions.
Xing Conglian’s Jeep was parked on the opposite side of the road. Across the long and empty road, Lin Chen saw him standing by his car, but he wasn’t smoking.
The night breeze brushed through his hair and clothes, blurring his face, but his figure stood out clearly.
Lin Chen walked towards him and suddenly wanted to know how his story would end if it were written in Su Fengzi’s book.
“How’s Su Fengzi?” After getting in the car, Xing Conglian’s first question was actually about Su Fengzi.
Lin Chen fastened his seatbelt and saw Wang Chao sleeping crookedly in the back seat while holding onto his laptop. He thought Xing Conglian was afraid that the atmosphere in the car would be too depressing, so he deliberately found a topic to chat about.
“Seems happy. A nurse bought him some apples, but he complained that no one peeled them for him.”
“Your friend is very interesting.” Xing Conglian lowered the car window a little. The night breeze made him a bit more awake. “How’s your hand?”
“I went to retake the x-rays. The doctor who showed me the x-rays looked at me blankly, as if there was nothing for him to do.” Lin Chen leaned back in his seat. It was close to midnight, and there was no one on the street. The entire city was calm, as if it was in a dream. He turned to look at Xing Conglian and said, “Fortunately, I didn’t take the medical report written by Professor Zhang. Otherwise, the physician would probably scold me to death.”
Xing Conglian laughed dumbfoundedly. “Consultant Lin, the organization is thinking about your health here. The bureau will reimburse you.”
Lin Chen chuckled and shook his head. “How’s Jiang Chao?”
“Probably fine, except for having to write a report for three days and nights.”
“Then the follow-up matters?”
“That’ll be handled by the Yongchuan police. We have to go home tomorrow.”
When he said the words “go home”, Xing Conglian happened to stop the car outside the hotel. They were facing a wide lake, and the cool lake breeze blew across the car.
Xing Conglian looked back at the teenager in the backseat, who was smacking his mouth, and asked with a smile, “What do you think about us leaving him here?”
He certainly meant it in an innocent way, but when those words reached Lin Chen’s ears, his heart couldn’t help but skip a beat.
Sure enough, he should talk less with Su Fengzi…
As Lin Chen was thinking this, he saw Xing Conglian suddenly open the door and get out of the car. He then walked around to his side and knocked on the window, smiled, then asked, “Consultant Lin, do you have time to get a drink together?”
Before Lin Chen could react, he saw Xing Conglian take out two cans of Yongchuan draft beer from his pockets, open them, and hand one over. “But it seems that only the two of us can drink it.”
The lake breeze was cool. Lin Chen held his beer can and gently touched it but didn’t respond.
In the distance, the lake was dark and quiet, with only scattered lights that dotted the shore.
It was late at night.
There weren’t many words exchanged.
“A good drink to accompany a nice view.”
“Yes, I think so too.”
“Can we still get breakfast near your school tomorrow and bring Wang Chao with us?”
“Yes, it would be nice if I could take you to another place tomorrow.”
Their small talk didn’t have any deep meaning. He didn’t know what was said or how much was said, but rather where it was said.
“Three Graves, is it really a non-existent organization?”
Suddenly, Lin Chen heard Xing Conglian ask this.
Lin Chen leaned on the bumper and shook the empty beer can. He looked to his side and met Xing Conglian’s eyes, which looked deep, as if they were profound.
There was a light, sweet smell of alcohol leaving his breath. Lin Chen couldn’t help but think what a clever man this person was. He raised his head and stared at Xing Conglian.
Under the dazzling starlight, he wanted to kiss him.
Well, the key word is yet. Lin Chen will learn soon what a man with strong abilities can really do.
This is it for arc 3. I’ve been told that the next arc is supposedly the best, so look forward to that. This marks the end of the anniversary release. I will be taking a break for the rest of this month, so releases will be extremely sporadic until at least January. Thank you everyone for your support, comments, Ko-fi donations, and help throughout the past year. Here’s hoping for more danmei in 2023. Wishing everyone an (early) happy holidays.
Jiang Chao’s voice echoed in the car through the stereo. His face was solemn and cold. Lin Chen could feel his anger, his suffocation, and all his resentment.
However, without the need for verbal communication, he looked at the reflection in the mirror and saw Xing Conglian looking at him.
In the next moment, Xing Conglian switched the car button and threw the Bluetooth headset to Lin Chen. Beside him, Wang Chao quickly understood and, at the same time, blocked off Jiang Chao’s communication system from his team.
Just before he opened the door and got out of the car, he heard Xing Conglian order the rest of the police force as he was facing the live broadcast, “I am Xing Conglian, and I am now in charge of this operation. Please quickly cover your mouth and nose and evacuate the factory in an orderly manner.”
Lin Chen slammed the car door and put on the headset. Jiang Chao’s wireless communication equipment had been isolated and was connected to him.
Jiang Chao’s angry voice came from the headset. “Fuck, Lao Xing. What the hell are you doing?!”
“Captain Jiang, please forgive me for the urgent matter.” Lin Chen pressed on the mic as he spoke.
“Consultant Lin… What do you mean… That Lao Xing!”
Probably hearing that it was Lin Chen on the line, Jiang Chao’s voice softened significantly.
Lin Chen leaned against the door of the car, remembering the dark eyes of Xing Conglian just now, and said, “He’s probably afraid of wasting time scolding you to death, so he directly handed the task of communicating with you to me.”
“Did Lao Xing cut off my authority again and then ask you to persuade me?” Jiang Chao huffed twice on the other end. Seeing that there was no response, he laughed at himself. “It’s really hard for him to take my feelings into account.”
When Lin Chen heard this, he looked inside the car and saw Xing Conglian’s eyes moving quickly, with his lips opening and closing, as if he were directing the police officers to avoid the cameras and evacuate in an orderly manner.
“No, I’m not advising you. I’m just asking for your understanding.”
Lin Chen lowered his head, looked at his feet, and then at the gray road.
He certainly had many truths to say, but it didn’t matter if it was worth speaking them or not. It was hard for him to say these truths to Jiang Chao because he knew very well why Jiang Chao didn’t leave.
In the headset, Jiang Chao’s suppressed voice came through. “Consultant Lin, I’m quite sober in my thinking. First of all, if there is a bomb, I’ll stay here and buy them time so they can evacuate. Secondly, now that the dark webcast is online, those dirty bedbugs are watching us. If we were to retreat now, what will those bedbugs think of the Yongchuan police?”
The reason Jiang Chao didn’t leave was because he couldn’t compromise.
This made Lin Chen feel sad.
Front-line police officers faced pressure not only from superiors and criminals, but also from social pressure. No matter when, where, or why, they must never show any signs of compromise to criminals.
In front of them were those criminals, and behind them were countless ordinary people.
Not only that, once they made any mistakes, like, for example, today’s video being edited by someone with ulterior motives and uploaded again, showing the police force fleeing after being intimidated by criminals, the people in front of them would reign triumphant, while the people behind them wouldn’t be able to understand. This was the greatest sorrow.
“I understand how you feel.” Lin Chen raised his head and looked at the sky, burned red by the sunset. “But in our profession, courage refers not only to throwing your head in and spilling blood, but it also refers to the timely retreat and preservation of strength in the face of criminals. In the eyes of me and most of the people you protect, your life is 10,000 times more precious than the lives of garbage, bedbugs, and social scum, so please cherish it.”
Jiang Chao didn’t answer.
Lin Chen thought for a while and said, “Although I can’t solve those contradictory social problems, I can still do my best for the current situation, so I assure you that the video broadcast today will never appear on any social network in the world.” Lin Chen recovered, looked at the teenager with a tense face, and said, “Because Wang Chao is really capable.”
Jiang Chao was still silent. Lin Chen felt that in his life so far, he had rarely encountered such a stubborn person.
After a while, Jiang Chao spoke again. “Well, my face has already been revealed. Isn’t it meaningless to go or not? Whether it blows up or not, you still need someone to dismantle all these cameras. Let me do it.”
Just then, the car window lowered.
He saw Xing Conglian poke out his head and asked, “Why isn’t Jiang Chao out yet?!”
In a rare instance, Xing Conglian had raised his voice at him.
From the headset, Lin Chen could hear Jiang Chao whisper, “I’m being capricious, right?”
Looking at Xing Conglian’s frigid face, Lin Chen lowered his head and said to the person on the other end of the line, “No, your choice is ultimately made from your own heart, not for others. I choose to respect it.”
If this were a sad story, the next shot would be fire and smoke, and the last persistence and broken faces of their comrades-in-arms.
But in this world, things were not always tragic. Occasionally, there would be some good luck.
In the end, there weren’t any bombs. Some of the shots closed with Jiang Chao’s outstretched black gloves and the final picture of darkness.
Without saying a word, Xing Conglian stepped on the gas. When his face was ugly, it made everyone present involuntarily silent.
In the car, Wang Chao instructed Jiang Chao to remove the cameras. “Boss Jiang, camera No. 2 should be on a tower crane. You can see it when you look up. The camera can’t capture you. You should go to the third floor and dismantle it.”
As he spoke, he probed through the mirror to observe Xing Conglian’s expression, as if he were afraid of saying something wrong. As for comrade Ma Han, after the Jeep started again, he didn’t dare say a word or even let out a cry.
Naturally, Lin Chen knew that Xing Conglian was angry because he didn’t approve of his final compromise with Jiang Chao, but because he made the decision, Xing Conglian couldn’t refute him on the spot. In short, this was Mr. Xing giving him some face.
When they waited in front of the abandoned factory, Jiang Chao had just pushed the door open.
The police officers outside the factory looked at each other, not knowing what was going on.
Xing Conglian slammed on the brakes. After he got out of the car, he glanced at Jiang Chao from a distance, then turned around without saying a word and walked around the corner between the factory building and the factory room.
Jiang Chao swallowed and followed suit.
Lin Chen looked at the disappearing figures of the two of them and heard the teenager next to him secretly ask, “Is he dead?”
He turned his head and glanced at Wang Chao, thinking to himself, ‘Don’t you have more experience in judging this kind of thing?’
“Have you ever lost your life?” Lin Chen thought for a bit but was still a little worried.
“To be specific, no, but broken hands and feet are a possibility.”
“You can’t say that. Sometimes it’s hard to lead a big team. It’s a big issue when you accidentally make a fool of yourself, so everything has to be controlled and balanced.” Wang Chao rubbed against Lin Chen with an expression of pull your ear closer for some juicy gossip. Lin Chen lowered his head and listened. “Let me tell you. Our captain may seem indifferent to many things, but he’s actually pretending. I have never seen a man with a stronger desire for control than him in my life.” As the teenager spoke, he slowly clenched his palms. “It’s scary. Be careful.”
After the teenager finished speaking, he patted Lin Chen on the shoulder and quickly jumped away.
Lin Chen looked at the corner in the distance. There didn’t seem to be any particularly fierce quarrel. When he turned his head again, Wang Chao had already changed his expression into “I didn’t say anything” again.
Previously, Xing Conglian had told him about Wang Chao’s life experience, and now Wang Chao was telling him about Xing Conglian’s.
Are these two dating?
Lin Chen thought helplessly.
And the desire for control?
Lin Chen didn’t care too much about this matter before, but now it seemed that there have indeed been clues in the past. Xing Conglian…
Lin Chen sighed and finally got out of the car.
He walked slowly in the direction of where Xing Conglian and Jiang Chao had vanished. When he rounded the corner, he found Xing Conglian and Jiang Chao were standing at the end of the alley, whispering something.
“I feel fucking suffocated. Why can’t you let me have a good time!”
Jiang Chao lowered his head. His face looked flushed, and he couldn’t help but refute.
“Cool, so cool. You think getting fucking blown up is cool? Do you know that in the case of Fang Zhiming’s daughter, our Hongjing police force sacrificed three people in the end. Threepeople. Threelives!” With one hand in his pocket, Xing Conglian reprimanded Jiang Chao extremely forcefully. “You can still stand here and talk to me now purely because of your good fate!”
Standing in front of Jiang Chao, Xing Conglian gave Lin Chen the illusion of leading and educating his subordinate.
In terms of level, although Jiang Chao was the vice captain, Yongchuan was the provincial capital. Jiang Chao’s actual administrative level was slightly higher than that of Xing Conglian’s. What was more, they were assisting in handling the case on the site of the Yongchuan police’s jurisdiction. For Xing Conglian to reprimand other people’s bosses in their own territory, it meant that he was truly furious.
Lin Chen stood still behind them. Intellectually speaking, Jiang Chao had reasons why he couldn’t leave and had to stay. Those reasons convinced him, but perhaps the same reason, in the eyes of Xing Conglian, was utter stupidity.
He took a step forward and wanted to say something but heard Jiang Chao say, “This case, from beginning to end, was solved by you and Consultant Lin. What did I do? Would it mean that if it weren’t for you, there would be a shocking tragedy in my jurisdiction, in a place where I swore to protect, and I would have no way to prevent it because of my lack of ability? Why am I so useless?” Jiang Chao held his head high, and his voice was uncontrollably agitated. “The only thing I can do is stand there and tell them that we’re not afraid and we won’t take a step back even if we die. Can’t I even do this?”
Lin Chen stopped. He looked at Jiang Chao’s flushed eyes and found that he was too sad to say anything.
Indeed, if it were not for those who were always in the front lines protecting their lives, they would probably never be able to experience the fear caused by powerlessness. It was like a doctor who couldn’t treat a patient, or a mother who couldn’t hold her child’s hand. No matter how much life and death they were used to seeing, no matter how numb they thought they had become, they would always tremble at such a certain moment because of self-blame.
He raised his head and looked at Xing Conglian.
Xing Conglian was as calm as ever—or rather, he was calmer than before.
“Do you have a misunderstanding about our profession?” Xing Conglian stood there, like a mountain, like the sea, and said, “We never do these things for fun. Even when you bring those criminals to justice and watch them face the guillotine, you won’t always be happy, because only you know how difficult the process is and how much you paid for it. And the most expensive cost of all is to endure all of this—to endure their dirty sins as well as our powerlessness many times, and then preserve and endure even more.”
“This is our profession.” Xing Conglian ended.
Lin Chen looked at him, feeling that all words had lost their effectiveness. He couldn’t help but bow to him earnestly.
Xing Conglian stood still on the side of the road. “Calm down and tell me. Can you locate where the live broadcast is?”
His tone was cold as he opened the playback of the live feed. Lin Chen slightly lowered his head only to hear Wang Chao’s voice. “I don’t know. The picture is very dark and blurred now. I suspect someone had specifically turned down the brightness… Damn it! It seems to be in some kind of factory!”
Wang Chao’s voice sounded nervous as his last sentences became unstable.
Lin Chen glanced at Xing Conglian. A factory, for example, was not within their range of possible attacks, so where was this camera?
At this moment, a soft voice sounded beside Wang Chao. “This… Our Jiang team just asked for statements from the students. They said that their usual meeting place is in an abandoned factory in the industrial zone behind University City.”
“Give the person next to you the phone,” Xing Conglian said decisively.
“Xing… Hello, Captain Xing. I’m from the second division. I… I’m Ma Han.” On the other end of the line, comrade Ma Han’s timid voice sounded.
“No need to introduce yourself. Get the point.”
It was rare for Xing Conglian to be so curt.
Lin Chen glanced up at him again and saw that his expression was grim. Lin Chen was used to seeing him expressionless in the face of a mountain collapsing, but he was surprised to find that Xing Conglian had reacted so strongly. He roughly understood that this was probably Xing Conglian’s self-blame.
In fact, from the time they just handed over the case to Jiang Chao to the time they walked out of the cafeteria, Xing Conglian never once mentioned any details regarding the follow-up. He didn’t even ask about it when Wang Chao was present, as if he had completely let go of the case. After all, at the end of the day, the case wasn’t within their jurisdiction from the start.
It didn’t matter if it was the way of officialdom or if there was a limit to how much he could advance or retreat. In the end, this was someone else’s case. If he got too pushy, he would look as if he was being greedy for merit, so when it was time to retreat, Xing Conglian did so. Still, he felt guilty for not handling the follow-up process well. This mindset was contradictory, but it was fueled by a strong desire for control; control over oneself, control over others, and control over everything.
Lin Chen lowered his eyes and tried not to think about it but rather focus on the information being narrated by the little policeman on the other end of the line.
About half an hour ago, a student confessed they organized a rally at their usual rally location, which was in an abandoned factory in the industrial area on the outskirts of the city. After Jiang Chao learned the news, he personally led a team and rushed there.
After listening, Xing Conglian asked, “When did they set off?”
“Let me call and ask?” Little comrade Ma Han’s voice was timid.
“Hurry!” Before Xing Conglian could say anything, Wang Chao had already begun to urge.
“Wang Chao, go downstairs with Ma Han. I’ll pick you up. Call Lin Chen’s phone.”
After Xing Conglian finished speaking, he hung up. “They are in office building No. 5. You go first. I’ll go get the car, and then we’ll meet downstairs.”
The location where Xing Conglian parked was further away from where building No. 5 was located, which was why Xing Conglian asked Lin Chen to go on ahead.
Lin Chen nodded. Xing Conglian patted him on the shoulder, then turned and ran away.
The cheers of students came from the basketball gym, as if to celebrate a team making a shot. Laughter and cheer came overwhelmingly.
Lin Chen’s heart sank. He took out his phone and called Wang Chao, then started running.
The sound of wind buzzed across his ear as he ran. He almost bumped into a passing couple on campus along the way.
“A’Chen, Ma Han said the Jiang team set off about a quarter of an hour ago.” On the other end of the line, Wang Chao could be heard running downstairs. There was violent panting in his voice. “I have calculated that it took almost a quarter of an hour from where the Jiang team left to the abandoned factory.”
In other words, in theory, the start of the live broadcast happened to be the time when Jiang Chao and the others arrived at the abandoned factory. Could it be that Jiang Chao and his team’s arrival triggered the live broadcast? But why?
Lin Chen had many unpleasant conjectures in his heart. “Have you contacted someone on the team? Have Captain Jiang and his team withdraw.”
“Xiao Ma just said they can’t contact the Jiang team. They may have already entered the factory area and turned or muted their phone during the operation so we can’t get through!”
After Lin Chen finished speaking, he had already seen two little comrades rushing downstairs in the distance, and, further away, Xing Conglian’s jeep also appeared.
Xing Conglian came quickly and arrived at almost the same time as him. After getting in the car, Wang Chao was so anxious that he kept asking, “A’Chen, what should I do? It won’t be another horror live broadcast, right?”
“It’s theoretically possible, but the possibility isn’t great.”
As soon as he heard the news of the live broadcast reopening, Lin Chen also wondered if the mastermind wanted to blow up the police raiders. After all, something similar had happened before.
But after sitting down and thinking calmly about it, the mastermind’s information wasn’t equal to theirs. Unless they chose to blow up the factory from the start, it was difficult for them to sneak into the warehouse to install bombs, then evacuate after the police fully enclosed the area. This was uninsured behavior, since it was likely the police force would have already deployed control measures around the warehouse in advance.
Therefore, this current live broadcast was more like a provocation.
In other words, it was roughly saying, “When you look at me, I’m also looking at you.”
Lin Chen took a deep breath and calmed his emotions. At that moment, Wang Chao suddenly shouted, “There’s a picture!”
Lin Chen quickly looked to his side, then put the notebook on his lap. The live broadcast screen suddenly lit up. The factory gate was slammed open, and black-clothed special forces formed a tactical formation and were rushing in.
Suddenly, the picture froze again, and the figures of the police officers became blurred because of the video jam.
“What can we do?!” Ma Han sat next to Wang Chao as he looked at the footage, almost in tears.
“Damn it! The wireless network coverage is too poor!” Wang Chao repeatedly slapped the laptop and began to quickly hack all the wireless networks in the surrounding area.
“Is it possible to connect to Jiang Chao’s team communication channel?” Xing Conglian asked suddenly.
“Do you use a digital IP interconnection system?”
Wang Chao turned his head and asked Ma Han, but comrade Ma Han’s face had an expression of: “I… have to probably call and ask.”
Wang Chao glared at him and decided to do it himself. “Captain, park the car in front of the School of Science and Technology for a minute. I can’t even connect to a wireless network when you drive so fucking fast!”
Despite hearing the cursing, Xing Conglian didn’t bat an eye and quickly turned sharply right and slammed on the brakes.
The Jeep stopped steadily at the gate of the school, and the digital stream on the screen scrolled quickly. As he was typing instructions, Wang Chao said to Ma Han, “Call and ask your colleagues in the division if they can contact your boss.”
When Ma Han heard this, he hurriedly disconnected the call, trying to reach Jiang Chao. Wang Chao saw the screen on his phone and was furious. “You keep calling Vice Captain Jiang’s squad. Don’t you know the communication will be blocked?”
Ma Han was scolded bloody by him. Although he was a lovely young man, his experience with Wang Chao was destined to be different from that of normal people when he encountered trouble.
Lin Chen patted Wang Chao’s head and said calmly, “I know what you’re thinking, but things won’t be as bad as you think.”
After he finished speaking, he looked at Ma Han and said, “Listen to him and call your colleagues.”
Ma Han’s big eyes had turned red at this moment, but he still listened and called his colleagues again. Sure enough, the voice on the other end was even more anxious. “There’s no answer from the on-board system. Team Jiang should have all gone in so no one’s answering the phone!”
“They’re all in! I know they’re all in! They’re being broadcast live right now. You have to get them out quickly before something happens!”
Hearing this, comrade Ma Han choked up again. Seeing him like this, Lin Chen quickly took out his phone and pressed the public release button.
“What is the distribution group number that Captain Jiang uses?”
While Wang Chao was talking, the wireless communication center dispatch page was opened.
Apparently, the police officers there weren’t too clear about the operating principle behind the intercom equipment they were using, as there was a long “errr” sound on the other end of the line, though truth be told, Lin Chen was completely ignorant about these things as well.
However, Wang Chao was a strong player with many skills. If it weren’t for their current emergency, Lin Chen would ask Xing Conglian what this child born in Africa ate while growing up.
Soon, there was a sound of running coming through the mic, documents being flipped, before finally the person who answered on the other line said, “I’ll take a picture of the specific information and send it to you!”
Lin Chen clicked on the photo and raised his cell phone in front of Wang Chao. Wang Chao glanced at it, brought up a series of communication devices from the central page, and then shouted at Xing Conglian, “Captain, I’m connecting it to the car’s Bluetooth.”
After a while, the sound of Jiang Chao arranging the task force came through from the stereo. “A team on the third floor, B team on the second, take it easy. They are all evidence!”
Jiang Chao’s voice was as arrogant and unruly as ever. When the voice came from the stereo, everyone in the car breathed a sigh of relief.
Lin Chen hadn’t hung up the phone. The cheers of the police officers of the second division came through it.
“Jiang Chao, Jiang Chao, can you hear me?” Xing Conglian asked.
Vice Captain Jiang Chao on the other end of the communicator was taken aback and shouted, “Holy shit, how did you cut in Lao Xing? Don’t play tricks on me again!”
“Listen to me carefully. You’re appearing on the latest broadcast right now. Immediately notify your subordinates and evacuate the factory.”
“What live broadcast?” Jiang Chao still didn’t understand the situation.
“The live broadcast on the dark web! Come out now!”
“What the hell?! Why are we on the live broadcast!” Jiang Chao shouted at the top of his lungs. “There’s no bullshit here. Tell me where the camera is, and I’ll take it out!”
Jiang Chao was still reckless. Lin Chen raised his head suddenly and saw Xing Conglian’s face as black as coal in the mirror. “Cut the fucking crap and get out of there!”
“Lao Xing, are you sacred? Scared that there’s going to be a bomb? If they wanted to blow us up, they would’ve done it earlier instead of giving us time to have a chat!”
Jiang Chao was still acting arrogant and disdainful.
In the live broadcast, the vice captain who was holding down his headset turned around, and his entire face appeared on it. He said to Xing Conglian, “I know what you’re afraid of. That’s how Lao Fang died. If you want to see laozi’s face, let them see it. If they have the guts, they will come and kill me. Laozi is waiting!”
The emotions of life were just emotions. After all, life was composed of trivial daily routines, and those thrilling and close calls were just accidental adjustments in life, and these adjustments should be as few as possible.
When Lin Chen left the school hospital, he had a thick cast on his hand.
Xing Conglian took out a cigarette with one hand while the other was holding a bag of medicines prescribed by the doctor for Lin Chen’s hand. He lifted his pocket and examined the packaging of the medicine carefully, before he tentatively asked, “Seriously, you really don’t need to go to a big hospital? Is this really just a bone fracture?”
Hearing what he said, Lin Chen looked back at the crowded hall of the school hospital and said, “The one who just examined my hand is a retired old professor and an orthopedic expert from the school of medicine who’s just enjoying his pension. That level should be okay?”
“Well, that’s more than passable.” Xing Conglian quickly replied. He seemingly thought of something and asked again, “But if your school hospital is so great, why is Su Fengzi still clamoring to go to the city hospital?”
“He’s probably afraid his dad will find out.” Lin Chen curled his lips as he said it.
“Huh, who’s his dad?”
“Don’t you know Fengzi is the prince of Yongchuan University?”
“Yongchuan University, Pr–in–ce?” Xing Conglian reacted quickly and almost choked on the smoke. “Mr. Su’s son?”
“Yes, Fengzi is the young master of the principal’s family.” When Lin Chen said this, he also found it funny.
Su Fengzi grew up in the campus family compound since he was a child. Even the little nurse who gave him his shots at the school hospital had been harassed numerous times by him. If he were to run to the school hospital to suture up his terrible wound, that would be equivalent to directly going to his father’s office and saying, “I did a big thing today!”
Lin Chen was pleased to see Xing Conglian’s confused expression, as if something wasn’t quite right. When he first found out about this, his reaction was also relatively calm.
After all, for his highly respected teacher to give birth to such a son, anyone would doubt something was amiss.
“There really is no resemblance,” Xing Conglian said with deep emotion.
As the evening approached, the air was filled with the pleasant smell of spring grass and trees, which made people go silent.
Unknowingly, people were drawn to the water, so it was strange that they once again arrived at the lake.
At this time, the setting sun was setting westward, and the water surface was sparkling.
Since Xing Conglian’s phone hadn’t rung, it meant there was no news, and that was probably the best news.
He half-closed his eyes and sighed deeply.
“What?” Lin Chen asked.”
“It seems as if a generation has passed*.”
*(恍如隔世) Idiom referring to a feeling caused by a great change in people or scenery. This comes from the travelogue “Wu Chuanlu” written by Fan Chengda, a writer from the Song Dynasty.
“This idiom is too literary and artistic, so it’s not suitable for you to say.”
“Counting things, three days ago, we came here to hang out yet we’re unlucky enough to run into such a big case…”
Although he spoke casually, Lin Chen could clearly see the lazy look on his face.
Even Xing Conglian felt tired, so the experience in the past three days could be described as if a generation had passed.
Lin Chen stood by the lake, looking at the sunset, which wasn’t much different from when the sun rose that day. He wanted to say something, such as encouragement or relief, but even if he had thousands of words in his heart, he could only deeply sigh.
“What?” It was Xing Conglian who asked this time.
“I was thinking, I’m very hungry now, and the cafeteria is not far from us…”
“Eat if you’re hungry. Is there a problem? We’ve been at your school for so long, and you haven’t even invited me out for a meal yet.”
“But I didn’t bring any money.”
“Don’t you have a meal card or something?”
“I graduated from here long ago. How could I possess such a thing as a meal card?”
“But I didn’t bring any money…”
Hearing this, they both looked at each other and said at the same time, “Where’s Wang Chao?”
Wang Chao was still helping the second division.
As a premier technician, comrade Wang Chao was sitting in an office at Yongchuan University. Together with two technicians that Jiang Chao had transferred from who knows where, he was monitoring the dynamics of the live broadcast on the deep web. It was different from when he was working with Xing Conglian. At this moment, he rested his legs on the table and had snacks brought to him by a young lady from the second division. Three minutes had passed since the agreed-upon live broadcast time, but the website was still all black. In the message bar at right, curses from various languages flooded the chat box.
After all, these psychopaths from all over the world had been cheated out of a lot of money by this live broadcast website.
Wang Chao stuffed a potato chip into his mouth and took a sip of orange juice.
“A bunch of spicy chickens*.”
*(辣鸡) Internet slang for garbage (because it’s a homonym for it).
As he said this, his phone suddenly rang. When he glanced at the caller ID, he almost choked on the potato chips.
“Hey Captain. Is there anything I can do for you?”
Wang Chao thought his boss was calling to check in on the progress of the case, but instead of what he expected, he heard, “Do you have money?”
“Captain, when have I ever gone out and brought money? Isn’t my whole persona a maize weevil*?”
*Rice worm. Basically, he’s calling himself a mooch.
“Don’t you have a thousand in the second pocket of your backpack?” On the other end of the phone, there was a sneer from Xing Conglian. “Didn’t you say that was prepared for when you can’t suddenly handle my high-handed rule and you’ll run away from home?”
“That’s my money. Don’t even think about it. I’m telling you, I’ll really leave if you don’t treat me better!” He quickly and justly refused. What a joke! There was no reason for him to give up this money.
“Your brother A’Chen said he’s hungry and wanted to eat…”
“Oh, I’ll deliver it right away. Where are we meeting?”
The call ended with the teenager’s trailing voice.
Lin Chen looked at Xing Conglian’s smiling face. The words “brother A’Chen” were still echoing in his ears…
Due to Wang Chao’s personality, when people talk to him, they invariably used a brisk tone, and at this moment, Xing Conglian’s voice had a slight nasal sound due to drowsiness. In short, it sounded husky and sweet, so there was a strange feeling of intimacy*.
*Clarity: As explained before, usually when addressing someone with an A’ in front of their name, it’s a sign of intimacy that’s normally reserved for your loved ones. Wang Chao is using it as more of a nickname, and it fits his persona. Given that Lin Chen is aware of his feelings, hearing Xing Conglian say “A’Chen” is very significant (especially given his husky voice right now, as if he had just woken up from a nap kind of voice), even if Xing Conglian isn’t saying it in a romantic sense.
Lin Chen looked at him for a while, only to see his gentle gaze, with just the right amount of haze in his eyes, like crumbling gold; it was brilliant and warm.
Xing Conglian was truly handsome.
The wind was soft and the sunset gentle, which naturally eased the mood.
Lin Chen thought that this was already very good.
When Wang Chao came, they already knew what to order at the cafeteria. So when the teenager arrived with his “escape money”, they quickly charged 200 yen to the meal card and ordered a large variety of food.
Before hearing what he said, Lin Chen always thought he was investing in projects such as “Nuannuan Development Foundation” or “100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Development Association”, but he actually donated his salary to UNICEF every month. Wasn’t this too enlightening?
Logically, he should ask “why” now, but he thought for a bit. A young man like Wang Chao was carefree. When he saw the rising sun, it was a sunny day, and when he saw the sunset, it was a starry night. He embraced the most beautiful thing in the world, so it wasn’t surprising that Wang Chao would do this.
“Okay, you can help me donate this month’s salary.” Lin Chen paused for a moment before responding.
He sounded as happy as if someone had loaded 10,000 yuan onto his online gaming account. Wang Chao excitedly swept up the food on the table and grabbed a scoop of ice cream with Xing Conglian. “A’Chen, you’re really a good person. 10,000 times better than the Captain!” He stuffed two-thirds of the ice cream scoop into his mouth as he said this sincerely.
Although Xing Conglian seemed to have ordered a lot of food, the amount was perfect, as everything was cleanly eaten.
Wang Chao was driven back by Xing Conglian to continue to monitor the live broadcast website. In the end, Xing Conglian still managed to wriggle out 20 yen from him and bought two packs of cigarettes.
They continued to hang out as he smoked.
When he walked into the basketball gym, Xing Conglian suddenly said, “He was born in Africa.” He, of course, referred to Wang Chao.
Lin Chen was taken aback. This was the first time that Xing Conglian told him about Wang Chao’s past.
But Africa? This was surprising.
“That’s far away. How come he’s here.”
He remembered the teenager’s milky white skin, so he shouldn’t be the illegitimate son of some tribal leader.
“His parents were managers of a construction company aiding Africa. They were honest and ordinary people. During the genocide, they died protecting more than 100 local residents.”
When he talked about this, Xing Conglian’s face was calm, but his tone reminded Lin Chen of the fierce yellow sand in the vast wilderness, as well as guns and blood.
Lin Chen frowned and wanted to ask more, but Xing Conglian’s phone suddenly rang.
As if foreshadowing something, the anxious voice of the teenager came from the mic.
“Cap… Captain. The website is up again. Come quick. Quick. Hurry!”
It was an inconspicuous small building—at least compared to the many ancient buildings of Yongchuan University, that small three-story building wasn’t eye-catching.
Its exterior wall was red, and the architectural style had a clear taste of the Republic of China, so the windows were a collage of stained glass; a style that wasn’t often seen in modern times.
In Yongchuan University, most of these small buildings had their own public use. Some were reserved as offices for professors, some were labs, and others were used as exhibition halls. In any case, because these small buildings were precious, they mostly belonged to the university’s exclusive use. For those that didn’t flip through the materials specifically, few would know that in the depths of the path on the shore of the lake, there was a small red building that didn’t belong to the school.
The cherry blossoms outside the small building were in full bloom. Its pink petals reminded people of many wonderful and moving stories.
At some point in time, young faces gradually gathered together outside the small building.
The first person to approach the building didn’t boldly push open the door. He just stood quietly at the entrance, tightening his grip on the cold weapon in his hand. After him, there were others who gathered. Girls in school uniforms, teenagers wearing caps, and girls in long skirts…
Like attending a rally, more and more people started to gather outside the building, but unlike at a rally, they didn’t have any communication with each other.
The sun gradually moved, making everything look bright.
Finally, the person standing in front acted. He slowly walked up the steps and pushed hard, causing the ochre-red door to suddenly open wide.
At that moment, everyone outside of the small building wasn’t in a rush to enter. They all took something out of their arms and pockets at the same time.
Steel pipes, chains, knives…
They held the weapons tight in their hands. With bloodshot eyes, they walked into the building one by one.
Unlike the bright scene outside, the interior of the small building was dark. All the stained glass was covered with black cloth, and even the temperature had dropped abruptly.
The door suddenly closed. The last person to enter wrapped the door handle with a thick chain, creating a tooth-aching creaking sound as he sealed the entrance shut.
From light to darkness, their eyes needed time to adapt, so they could hardly see the environment inside the building.
It stood to reason that when people lose their vision, they would feel a sense of fear, but they didn’t experience it because they were with each other. When they were together, there was no voice to be afraid of in the world.
They gradually heard, in that huge space, the sounds of echoes coming from all over, as if there were some nocturnal creature crawling on the floor in the dark night. Perhaps it was a rat, or maybe a cockroach, or maybe something else.
Their vision gradually recovered, and everyone became excited.
There were really people here!
A chandelier hung from the old ceiling. When the dim light suddenly fell on them, they trembled.
Before entering the building, they had fantasized about what kind of group the organization called “Three Graves” was.
They fantasized about how they looked when they were in this meeting, what they were talking about, and how they would look when they thought they were at their best, and they imagined beating them with steel pipes and watching as they wailed in a pool of blood…
They had thought about so many things, but the appearance of those people in front of them was still beyond their imagination.
There were no suits, no shirts, no words, not even eyes. Everything in the small building was silent and depressed.
In front of them stood people dressed in all black. They were wearing black clothes that were enshrouded by the yellow light from the chandelier.
What was creepy was that those people in black were like ghosts. They didn’t even bother turning their gaze to the sudden intruders but continued to hold their thick brushes as they buried their heads on the floor and outlined a huge pattern…
They then turned to look at the floor, which was soft ivory white with mountains of black lines all over it rather than the usual wood color. Those lines rolled up and down, surrounding each other, then splitting apart again.
Suddenly one of them pointed to one of the figures in black and shouted, “It’s him!”
Looking in the direction of the finger, they saw an extremely handsome face.
Although the lights were dim, and the person’s face was blurred, they could still recognize that it was Chen Xuan, the mathematics department grass who could stir the entire forum by just going online.
It was just that Chen Xuan’s face was cold and didn’t represent the repeated rumors of elegance and gentleness. He was just painting intently on the ground, as if he were enchanted.
Perhaps it was due to the surroundings being too quiet, or maybe silence could awaken something, but the people who broke in finally recovered. They remembered what their goal was. They obviously came here to kill!
Invariably, they scattered in all directions and stepped on the floor covered with dense lines in an encircling formation.
As if foreseeing something, the movements of all the people in black stagnated. It felt like the air was suddenly sucked out, and all the figures in black suddenly dropped everything in their hands, like puppets whose strings broke, and sat down in unison.
The figures in black stopped painting, and the intruders standing outside the encirclement stopped moving forward again. They set their sights on the ground again, and some even stood on their tiptoes. They saw a pattern composed of many lines. The pattern was like an ancient totem with terrifying magic power…
The surrounding atmosphere was weird. They felt as if the pattern was a graveyard, with stone monuments and bones scattered about and the sounds of beasts roaring.
In fact, it was extraordinarily quiet in the small building with no sound around, but suddenly there was a voice like a white light shattering the night. In the darkness of the small building, it echoed loudly.
“Books are the grave of knowledge.”
Someone began to chant.
It was a figure dressed in black that sat in the far corner. His voice was eloquent, and it had a mysterious power, as if it could enchant people.
It was as if the believers were reciting doctrines. The rest of the people in black were chanting devotionally with him. Those vast voices seemed to be able to penetrate time and space, leading people into a barren and dark world.
“Blind obedience is the grave of wisdom.”
The second chant sounded, causing the intruders to tremble again. They all stayed in place, not knowing what was going on.
The grand chanting sounded again. This time, one of the intruders began to act. He clenched the handle of the knife and quietly walked towards the leader dressed in black.
“A prophet is the grave of future generations.”
The last sentence ended abruptly, and the word grave hadn’t been completely said.
This wasn’t because the leader suddenly realized that the group of intruders was surrounding them, but for a more serious reason. There was a snow-white knife pressed against his neck.
Despite this, the atmosphere remained calm.
The people in black didn’t stop chanting because their leader was attacked. They remained still, and their breathing didn’t even change.
But in the eyes of some, it was a tense moment like when the heart was about to stop beating.
In a room on the highest floor of the small building, people were standing in front of the screen with bated breath. They watch the blade close in on the neck of the leader in black. After a while, everyone’s eyes turned to Xing Conglian.
However, Xing Conglian didn’t move. Although the sniper’s requested instructions were coming through on his headset and the surrounding eyes were all eager, he didn’t order to shoot.
He looked at the person whose life was in danger on the screen without saying a word.
Also not saying a word was a man who was held at knifepoint.
The man was sitting cross-legged. His complexion was pale, and his hair color was soft. While he wasn’t as handsome as Chen Xuan, the temperament he exuded was far better than that of the school grass that had not yet left campus.
This was the reason why Shen Ran chose this person to start with.
No matter where they look, this person was the leader of “Three Graves”. Throughout history, it had always been the same principle that the king should be captured first.
As long as he killed this person… As long as he killed this person…
Shen Ran thought this silently, but suddenly realized he couldn’t think.
Then what? Kill this person, and then what?
At that moment, his heart suddenly became flustered, and he didn’t know what he should do.
At this moment, in the silent space, calm footsteps suddenly sounded. The sound was getting closer and closer to him…
Shen Ran raised his head abruptly and saw a man standing on the stairs.
Unlike all the people in black, the man wore the most ordinary white shirt. The light that was falling from the ceiling seemed to penetrate through the man’s thin body.
Step by step, the man walked onto the totem on the ground. In an instant, as if someone had brushed away the flowing water, the man in black who had been stationary moved again. They all stood up, bowed to the man, and then retreated to the side.
What was the use of retreating to the side? This damn person still had to die.
Shen Ran pressed the blade tightly to the hostage’s neck when he suddenly recognized the man in the white shirt that stood in front of him. “Are you Lin Chen?” he asked coldly.
“Yes.” Lin Chen looked at the boy in front of him. He was about the same age as Wang Chao, perhaps even a little older than him, but not by much.
However, there was no youthful vitality that young people should have in that boy’s eyes. How could he describe it? Those eyes were radiant, as if there was a flame burning inside. Although they were bright, they didn’t have a beautiful feeling, but the eyes of youth should be beautiful. The gaze of teenagers should be youthful and lively, like the world was moving, but in those eyes, Lin Chen only saw flames and ashes after the flames had burned out.
“Are you the leader of the Three Graves?”
When the boy asked this, he secretly glanced at the person he had taken hostage, as if he were unclear about the situation.
“Did you misunderstand something?”
Lin Chen didn’t speak. It was the person who was taken hostage who spoke.
Lin Chen looked at Mr. Hostage, and Mr. Hostage blinked slightly at him.
Looking at the blade on Su Fengzi’s neck and his relaxed face, Lin Chen regretted his arrangement for a moment. After all, Su Fengzi was an uncontrollable person. No matter how he had previously admonished people like Su Fengzi, if they wanted to say or do something, there was no stopping them.
Before the boy could respond, Su Fengzi reversed the grip on the knife that was placed against his neck.
The boy didn’t seem to expect him to be so bold. He jerked his hand hard, but the knife seemed as if it were held by iron pliers and wouldn’t budge even an inch.
Of course, there had to be a price paid when human flesh competed with an iron blade. Blood instantly stained the entire blade surface, and it fell, drop by drop, but Su Fengzi seemed unfazed.
Perhaps it was the expression on Su Fengzi’s face that was too cold, or maybe his unawareness of pain was too appalling, but the boy suddenly let go of the hilt of the knife and took two violent steps back, gasping in great fright.
“Who the hell are you people?!”
“Don’t you already know?” Su Fengzi took the fruit knife in his hand and played with it as he asked rhetorically, looking quite indifferent. “We’re Three Graves. Three Graves are us…”
“You destroyed our home!” The boy’s face suddenly stiffened as he accused the man sharply.
“Ah, is that your home? I’m sorry…” Although he apologized, with his slightly raised chin and the contempt in his eyes, he didn’t even seem half-remorseful. “Don’t misunderstand. We just thought it would be fun.”
There was no explanation because he didn’t think he needed to explain it to them. In fact, it wasn’t a provocation. It was just fun, and that was enough.
Probably the most annoying people were the ones they hated, but the other side didn’t care about them and smeared them, humiliated them, and defiled them, all for the sake of fun.
The young people standing a little further away heard this and became angry again. “Ran Ge, don’t talk nonsense with them. We’re here to kill them!”
“Do you have the right to open your mouth in this place?” Su Fengzi glanced at the noisy onlookers, then he said impatiently, “The tour is over. Shouldn’t you guys get lost?”
The more disdain he showed, the more riled up people became.
“Of course we’ll leave after we finish what we have to do!” the boy said coldly.
“What do you have to do here?” Su Fengzi suddenly laughed as if he thought the boy’s words were too funny. He stretched out his hand and pointed to a figure in black behind him. “This is the lowest IQ we have here, 141. Please, tell me. How high is your IQ, and how many trophies have you won? Are you a genius? If you’re not, what qualifications do you have to stand here?”
As he spoke, there was a sense of dominating arrogance.
The boy was obviously blindsided by this sentence, and he didn’t know how to answer for a while. His companions behind him reacted faster. They all raised their weapons in their hands and charged forward.
Su Fengzi stood still, alone, and proud.
Lin Chen, who was still in front of him, also remained quiet.
On one side were armed and angry students, and on the other side were unarmed, speechless people in black.
Like flames and seawater or man and the abyss, they were never compatible. One party would always devour the other.
In the room upstairs, Jiang Chao finally couldn’t bear it. He held down Xing Conglian’s shoulder and said angrily in a low voice, “Lao Xing, I must ensure the safety of the other students!”
He was of course referring to ordinary students who were dressed in black and were playing as members of “Three Graves”.
However, just like Lin Chen, who was quiet as water, Xing Conglian didn’t speak. He put his hands together against his chin, but his gaze never shifted from the surveillance screen.
This was either a speechless, tacit understanding or a much deeper trust.
Just as Xing Conglian was about to gesture to Jiang Chao to keep quiet, Lin Chen moved. The students who were about to rush up were also frightened by his action.
Everyone in front of the surveillance screens was sweating. Just as they were about to breathe a sigh of relief, they accidentally saw that Lin Chen didn’t actually mean to speak up. He just put his hands in his pockets, turned around, and made a gesture of leaving.
“Stop!” the students behind him shouted loudly.
But Lin Chen didn’t listen. At this moment, Su Fengzi took a step and stood in front of Lin Chen. He said it in a disdainful and arrogant tone, as if the world owed him millions. “Get out of here. Haven’t you caused enough trouble? Coming here to kill people… What are you? Three? I just left a message on the wall, hoping you would restrain yourself. Do you really think you’re invincible?”
Hearing Su Fengzi’s words, those young boys and girls all gasped as their eyes flushed with anger, as if they would turn rabid like a herd of beasts in the next moment.
But perhaps it was because the wound on Su Fengzi’s hand was too scary or maybe his face had an inviolable cold feeling under the dim light, that the intruders paused for a moment.
Su Fengzi showed contempt and didn’t give those people any reaction time. “Digging a grave and watching people lie in it gets your blood boiling and makes you feel as if you’re one of the most transcendent and mysterious collective? Do you think you have true faith and everyone else is just ignorant?”
“Lao Xing, what the hell are they doing? Are they not afraid of provoking a bunch of psychopaths and fucking looking for death?!” In front of the surveillance screen, Jiang Chao once again shrieked.
Xing Conglian raised his head and looked around, only to find that everyone in the room was giving him an anxious look.
“Lao Jiang…” Xing Conglian finally spoke. He moved a teacup on the table to the side, “Would you like to have some tea?”
“Drink your mom’s tea! We have to hurry if something really happens!”
“Hey, we’re performing official duties. Please be more civilized,” Xing Conglian said with a smile.
Jiang Chao became extremely angry. “Why the hell can’t we rush down and catch all them at once?” While speaking, he made the gesture of catching a turtle with a jar.
Hearing this, Xing Conglian’s gaze fell on Lin Chen on the screen again.
What Lin Chen said to him during breakfast echoed in his ears.
Specifically, it was probably something he said late last night that had some effect. When the police force distributed breakfast at 7 in the morning, Lin Chen specially brought him a box of yogurt and invited him to have breakfast together.
The two of them squatted down next to the stone lion at the entrance of the second division and watched the street sweepers cleaning the ground.
“The next action will be a little dangerous…” Lin Chen said to him after watching the sanitation worker sweep up the streets for a minute.
Xing Conglian probably guessed what he was going to say but still pretended not to understand. “Of course it’s dangerous. You have to pay attention to safety.”
As he spoke, he saw Lin Chen’s breathing stagnate. It seemed Lin Chen didn’t expect him to play dumb. After all, Lin Chen was a far more thorough person than ordinary people. “I’m very sorry regarding what you said earlier. This is indeed my problem, so I want to try and correct it.”
The other party was so sincere that it made Xing Conglian speechless. “Why are you so polite?”
“Because there is a troublesome matter that needs your help.” Lin Chen took a deep breath and said, “I hope you can delay the police’s arrest time as much as possible. Unless someone is seriously threatened, I hope you can order the snipers not to shoot.”
“What do you mean?”
“When the members of that group walk into the building, it stands to reason that the police would make an arrest at the appropriate time, right?”
“But after catching them, then what?” Lin Chen asked rhetorically.
“Interrogate them severely, bully them to force them to give up the mastermind behind all this. Then we’ll go arrest them… You want to say that this is useless, right?”
Lin Chen shook his head.
Although it was a serious conversation, Xing Conglian wanted to laugh. “In fact, I suddenly found that you have been instilling this concept in us. That is, after catching them, our interrogation won’t work, but in addition to interrogation, if we manage to catch them by surprise, they won’t have time to wipe off the data on their communication devices or other clues. We can still follow the trail and find the mastermind behind this, can’t we?”
“No,” Lin Chen said decisively.
“Do you think it’s important to catch the mastermind behind the scenes?”
“Isn’t it?” Xing Conglian responded rhetorically.
“It is, but that person is far less important than those children. If we catch that person, we may lose the opportunity to save these children forever.”
When he heard Lin Chen talking about children, he was confused for a moment, but he soon realized that the children Lin Chen was referring to were members of that group; those who had lost their humanity and were regraded by them as terrorists.
Rescuing terrorists was indeed a fresh statement.
In countless similar experiences in his life, he had never compromised with any enemy, let alone saved the hearts of criminals. This was what a saint should do, not the police.
But he didn’t refuse Lin Chen. He quietly listened as Lin Chen continued.
“Yes, we can catch the turtle with a jar, but when those children see the police rushing in, they will be shocked, but more so they will be angry because they have found that they have been betrayed by the world again. They will try their best to revolt, which will cause some people to be injured and others to be killed. They will really lose their sense of trust in everything in the world. They may go to prison or a detention center, and with some luck, some of them will realize their problems, but most people tend to be stubborn. After those people are released, they will be garbage and waste, the dregs of society. They will be desperate, feel pain, and abhor everything, and finally continue to retaliate against the world. Do you think this is the solution to the problem?”
Xing Conglian was speechless when he was asked this.
He could, of course, refute. He could say that there was very likely a no all-win situation ending in this world. It was very likely that a person could do everything right but still not get the happy ending that they desired. Those people were already broken, like organs eroded by cancer. Although it was painful and regrettable, it must be removed. There was no other option.
Inexplicably, deep in his heart, he actually felt a little uncomfortable. In fact, he hadn’t felt uncomfortable for a long time.
Lin Chen was still talking. Perhaps his legs were so numb from squatting too long that he stood up and leaned against the stone lion.
The shape of the stone lion was a bit funny, but Lin Chen’s face was solemn.
“Some crimes come from malice, some from cowardice, and some from the inability to control themselves. To me, they are more like children suffering from mental illnesses. They are first and foremost individuals with low self-esteem and are introverted. Because of this characteristic, they are exploited by criminals and deceived by the people they once trusted and loved. That’s a terrible hell. Do you think that when they enter that group, the first thing they experience is the welcome of love? No, the first thing they suffer is abuse—the abuse and destruction of their spiritual beliefs.”
“Are you trying to say that criminals are also victims?” Xing Conglian’s tone was a bit cold.
“Do you think that no matter what kind of suffering they suffer, they should also stick to their hearts and not be swayed by criminals? But unfortunately, they are just ordinary students. They can’t resist human nature. People tend to avoid pain. If pain is inevitable, they will choose to correct their perception to adapt to the pain. It’s like a man imprisoning a woman. He desperately abuses that woman, and once the woman can’t bear the abuse, she will begin to correct her cognition and regard the man’s behavior towards her as love, and then fall in love with him. Psychologically, this process is called ‘learned helplessness*’.”
*Behavior exhibited by a subject after enduring repeated adverse stimuli beyond their control.
Lin Chen’s voice was as faint as ever, but Xing Conglian heard the unstoppable, cold meaning behind his words.
“They will gradually fall in love with that group and accept the concept instilled in them by the group. Once they truly integrate into it, there will be a phenomenon of de-personalization. The identity of the individual with the group drowns out their humanity, and then they begin to lose themselves…”
“Losing oneself means losing their humanity. They only accept the instructions of the group because, fundamentally, they are no longer them. Those sinful thoughts are only the will of the group, not theirs.”
Hearing this, Xing Conglian understood why Lin Chen had told him in the beginning why those children weren’t real terrorists.
Before they lost their humanity, they were just selected victims, and before they became victims, they were ordinary students who had beautiful fantasies about life but weren’t ambitious, and in the identity of ordinary students, their previous identity was human.
They were all living, breathing humans.
Then, saving the lives of other students was as important as saving their lives.
Xing Conglian suddenly had confidence in Lin Chen’s plan, because he found that even he himself was convinced.
Sure enough, Lin Chen was right. He was really persuasive.
So maybe—maybe it was too naïve—too idealistic, too weird, but perhaps Lin Chen could really save those children’s lives.
“What if I refuse?” Xing Conglian suddenly asked.
After he finished speaking, he saw Lin Chen look at him impatiently as if saying, “Why are you talking nonsense?”
Su Fengzi’s incessant words passed through the headset and into Xing Conglian’s ears. Naturally, these lines were all written by Lin Chen, but the performance seemed quite personal.
Lin Chen stated that he would allow Su Fengzi to repeat the entire process of brainwashing and attempt to wash them back.
The first step was to force them to the extreme.
Crowds were extreme; therefore, they would only be moved by extreme emotions. If he wanted to move them, he had to become more extreme than them…
Xing Conglian looked at the stallion novel writer with first-class acting skills.
Su Fengzi, like the great orators of ancient times, possessed demagoguery magic when he was eloquent.
He said, “You were tricked into this collective at the beginning, and then they locked you up, abused you, ridiculed you, and told you that this was a process of suffering that you must go through in the transformation of human nature. At that time, you were alone and helpless. There was no way to ask for help, and then a group of people ran to you and preached about the transformation they had undergone through tempering, telling you how they changed from an obscure ugly duckling to a noble swan. They said that as long as you believe in them and join them, you can do it too… And you gradually believed it?” The corners of Su Fengzi’s lips curled, and he gave a look of contempt at all the intruders. “Did you go pick up vegetable leaves and eat rotten fruits together? Oh, they told you that this is called sharing joys and sorrows, and then you were satisfied and could suffer a little together. You feel that each of you were indispensable companions. Do you think it’s good to go to bed together? Modern society calls this a hookup. Don’t get distracted by how naïve you really are.”
With his words, those young faces gradually showed awkward and confused expressions. Su Fengzi’s mockery skills were too great. He knew even their most secret things clearly, but how?
In front of true elites, their low self-esteem and cowardly personalities reappeared.
But this confusion only lasted for a short time before anger took hold again. After all, their privacy was discovered, and their faith was trampled on. This was an intolerable insult.
Their faces were flushed, and the anger in their eyes seemed to burn everything to ashes.
This was really an extremely dangerous situation. Facing a group of fanatics, defiling their group was even more unacceptable than killing them!
The fierce changes in the emotions of the intruders were, of course, seen by the surveillance team upstairs. Two students were already very close. They raised their steel pipes and were about to bash Su Fengzi’s head in.
Jiang Chao finally couldn’t bear it. “Action, action,” he ordered through the wireless headset.
But gunshots didn’t sound, and there was no sound coming from his headset.
“Hey, hey!” He yelled at the microphone twice more but still didn’t get a response. It was obvious now that his equipment was useless.
He quickly remembered that earlier today, Xing Conglian had told him that because the police might be insufficient, he had also asked the Interpol snipers for help. At that time, he felt Xing Conglian meant well, so he agreed. The only problem was that ICPO used different equipment and systems than them, so in the end, for the sake of smooth action, they unified and replaced all the equipment with ICPO’s more advanced wireless equipment.
Unexpectedly, Lao Xing had set him up!
“Sir Jiang, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Our Captain asked me to do this. If you’re angry, just punch him twice to vent your anger?” In the corner, Wang Chao, who had been as quiet as a chicken, suddenly raised his head while holding a laptop and gave him a sneer.
But Jiang Chao didn’t have time to beat Xing Conglian. Su Fengzi was about to get his head bashed in, and he needed to hurry and call 120, but someone actually reached out and caught the pipe.
In fact, rather than catching, it was better to say someone reached out and took away the pipe that was about to bash Su Fengzi.
It was Lin Chen who stretched out his hand. The contact between the steel pipe and the flesh suddenly sounded. Just the clanging sound alone made his whole body ache.
Lin Chen grabbed the steel pipe.
“Fengzi.” He stopped Su Fengzi from being hit and ordered, “Apologize!”
Su Fengzi’s face was unwilling, but he obeyed Lin Chen rather abnormally. He bent his waist in an extremely elegant manner and solemnly apologized to the intruders. “I’m sorry.”
The intruders were shocked again.
It wasn’t only the young students who were shocked, but also the people watching the surveillance.
Everything happening in front of the screen was nothing but bizarre.
From beginning to end, Lin Chen showed that he was too lazy to say anything, but everyone knew he was the true leader of Three Graves.
Although his clothes were ordinary and his expression was very plain, just standing there alone and indifferently, he seemed as if he stood on an unattainable cloud that couldn’t be touched.
“What the hell are they doing?” Jiang Chao couldn’t help asking.
Xing Conglian glanced at Jiang Chao and motioned for him to shut up.
Vice Captain Jiang sat down beside him, extremely depressed. “Lao Xing, really, what does he want to do? Talk to me. Otherwise, I’m really going to rush out that door, yeah?”
“He is trying to impress them.” Xing Conglian stared at Lin Chen’s figure on the screen as he replied calmly.
Of course, Jiang Chao’s eyes were full of confusion. In short, he was trying to impress a group of brainwashed lunatics. Those who wanted to do so were probably not far from madness.
“Of course we can make arrests now, but don’t you think there are too few people downstairs?” Xing Conglian curled his fingers and tapped on the screen. “That is to say, some people in the organization are here, while others are still waiting to perform the night operation. The problem we face has not changed. Are you sure that…” Xing Conglian looked at his watch and continued, “Within three hours, they will give up?”
“Of course I’m not fucking sure! What about Lin Chen? Will he find a way to make them give up?”
Xing Conglian’s face fell on Lin Chen’s left hand holding the steel pipe. The light wasn’t good, so he couldn’t see the specific injuries. He nodded and repeated some of what Lin Chen had told him during breakfast.
“For any extreme group, they won’t listen to anything outsiders say. Then, if you want them to listen to you, you can only let them worship you. Just like animals surrendering to their leader, groups surrender to their leaders as well. This is something that’s clockwork through the times…”
“But didn’t you explain to me that the ‘Three Graves’ organization that Lin Chen fabricated was obviously used to draw hatred, but now they’re suddenly worshiping?”
Xing Conglian smiled helplessly.
“It’s actually very simple. Because these students not only belong to their mysterious collective, they also belong to ordinary student groups. When these student groups began to discuss the mysterious elite student organization and pushed up Three Graves by playing detective, they also imperceptibly affected those crazy kids downstairs. These kids… Of course, that influence is only subconscious, so their worship is also subconscious. They themselves don’t realize that although they hate ‘Three Graves’, who dare to provoke and trample on them, the root of their hatred is because ‘Three Graves’ is a superior being and a representation of their hatred of their classmates.”
While Xing Conglian was speaking, Jiang Chao had already lit a cigarette.
“Then what?” Jiang Chao asked.
“Then, according to Lin Chen’s words, the group is easily moved by the most vivid and extreme images, so, ah, he showed them the artistic process of the ‘Three Graves’’ ceremony, and a foolhardier statement is that humans are always inexplicably shocked by some seemingly supernatural phenomena. Presumably, that’s no different from ritual dancing?”
“That’s Lin Chen’s friend, Su Fengzi?”
Xing Conglian nodded. “At the beginning, they would think Su Fengzi is the leader of ‘Three Graves’, and he’s good at fooling people. He satirized and ridiculed them. In fact, this is to appear stronger than them in spirit and belief. At that time, Su Fengzi had already put them in a condescending position. Then Lin Chen made his move. He actually asked Su Fengzi to apologize. This was not only an act of gaining favor, but Su Fengzi’s obedience allowed Lin Chen to step on his shoulders and instantly walk to the alter.”
Lin Chen’s gaze wandered past the children in front of him.
He looked at the faces of the young children. They were all so young—many younger than he thought. Some were restless, some were tense, some had grim expressions, some had makeup that was beginning to bleed from sweat…
Lin Chen’s gaze finally fell on a petite girl in the corner.
He knew who she was. It was Jin Xiaoan. She had a friend named Jiang Liu; a friend who was dead.
“For some reason, you hate the world. Regarding your hatred and the source of this emotion, I won’t preach about it. There’s nothing to say. If you think you have a reason to hate, then hate. This matter has nothing to do with me.”
He spoke very slowly, without any emotion.
In fact, at that time, his heart was indeed calm and indifferent. How could there be such understanding and empathy between people in this world?
“It doesn’t matter! Nothing matters! Stop acting like you care about us! Go to hell!”
The boy holding the steel pipe yelled at him. His hair was shaved to an inch, and he wasn’t tall. He was very thin and had beady eyes. Perhaps it was due to his figure that he was ridiculed and humiliated. He could have a girl that he liked, but perhaps she didn’t like him back. He could have found someone to tell them about his inner pain, but maybe there wasn’t anyone in this world who had ever listened to his heartfelt voice seriously.
Or, rather, it should be said he may not have confided his heart to the world.
In his life, he probably always lived in desperation. He longed for the beautiful, but the beautiful did not yearn for him.
Then, he met the organization. He had struggled and hesitated, but in the end, he couldn’t resist the most primitive human nature. He succumbed. He gained money, status, and women. He also discovered that loving and being loved were both truly beautiful things…
So what reason did he have to reject that organization?
Lin Chen wanted to laugh a little, but he suddenly realized that if it were him, it would probably be difficult for him to resist those beautiful temptations.
“I think you probably misunderstood. I don’t want to control you. I just know some of your stories and feel pity. In fact, I don’t think there was anything wrong with you before, and of course I don’t think there’s anything good about you now. However, we can ignore my regrets because that has nothing to do with it…”
“Shut up!” The young people in the crowd suddenly shouted, but in front of Lin Chen, their chanting didn’t seem righteous enough.
“Really?” As if to fulfill the young man’s wish, Lin Chen closed his mouth, let go of the hand holding the steel pipe, and turned and walked away.
Seeing that he was really leaving, even the elites present didn’t have the will to stay, and they all wanted to disperse.
“Stop!” the crowd behind them couldn’t help but chant.
“Do you really think that your power is enough to control everyone?” Lin Chen looked back and smiled coldly. “You can’t even control yourself.” As he spoke, he raised his wrist with some difficulty and looked at his watch. “It’s going to be 1 soon. If you can control yourself, you should know that it’s time to go to class.”
“Why are we still going to class?”
There was a mocking look on the young man’s face. Lin Chen looked at his narrowed eyes and asked rhetorically, “You asked me why you should go to class, and I should just tell you? Do you think there’s no point in going to class, no point in reading, no point in even living? This person doesn’t like you, that person doesn’t like you, the whole world doesn’t like you. You constantly think the world is ugly and filled with disgusting people, so why should you stay here?” Lin Chen took a step forward and looked down at the young man in front of him.
The boy with beady eyes suddenly became angry and almost hit Lin Chen with the steel pipe.
“Don’t think that I don’t know what you elites think. You look dignified, but in fact, you never even look at us. You think we’re all ugly and brainless. You look down on all of us!”
“That’s just what you think. It’s you who live in the grave of self-pity, not me,” Lin Chen said lightly.
“Just like I said!”
“That’s not true!”
Su Fengzi, who had been standing aside, suddenly spoke. His tone was very high, with a trembling ending. The shrill sound echoed throughout the old building.
No one spoke.
No one dared to speak.
“I know Jiang Liu.” In the dark and depressing space, Su Fengzi’s voice sounded again. His hand was still bleeding, but much of the blood had congealed around the wound, turning it into an ugly brown scar.
When they heard the name Jiang Liu, all the young students holding weapons couldn’t help but tremble.
“My relationship with Jiang Liu, how can I put it… She was actually my friend, or rather, my reader. She mentioned liking my books, but we had never met before she died.” Su Fengzi’s voice was soft. He seemed to be trying his best to suppress himself, and his voice trembled a bit. “When we first met, Jiang Liu wrote to them and told me she thought she looked ugly. She said her eyes were particularly convex and her nose was too flat. Her skin wasn’t good and was full of pits and potholes, making her look like a toad. So the reason why she liked my books was also simple. She said she envied the girls I wrote about. They were so good-looking, and they were so happy to have handsome boys who liked them. She envied them deeply. She said she really wanted to be loved, but no one loves her. At that time, I didn’t know how to comfort a sad girl. It was too difficult for me, as I always felt that it wasn’t easy to be loved by others. As long as you dress up beautifully, naturally some boys will confess to you, but in fact, I forgot that people are different. Some are confident, and some have low self-esteem. I forgot that for some people, it’s just something that can be done easily, while for others, it takes all their effort to muster their only remaining courage to do it. You see, the world is unfair. At that time, I couldn’t appreciate the mood of a girl with extremely low self-esteem, and I couldn’t imagine how much courage it took for her to show me a picture. When I saw her picture, I even thought she was being pretentious. She wasn’t as ugly as she said. She was pure and cute. Perhaps it was for this reason that I didn’t pay attention to her, but one day, she suddenly told me that her respected senior had brought her into a new world. She felt that she could really become a girl that many, many people loved, like in my writing, but I still ignored her, thinking she was crazy. Until one day, she suddenly contacted me and said that she wanted to invite me to her next performance. I didn’t want to go, but I was a bit curious about what she had become now, so I arrived at the agreed place, but what I saw was her figure leaping down from the sky.” Su Fengzi paused and laughed self-deprecatingly. “I’m not the kind of person who will regret this kind of thing painfully, but I still have some remorse. She can’t hear me praise her beauty. After all, I wouldn’t agree to go meet a dinosaur.”
Su Fengzi’s voice floated gently in the ears of the students. He had already finished speaking, but no one spoke. Everyone was silent, and the first person to cry was the girl in the corner who had just finished eating her buns.
“Is this a good sign?” Jiang Chao pointed to the crying girl on the screen as he asked.
“Of course. Sincere tears mean that they feel sad, and it is people who can feel pain and sadness,” Xing Conglian replied.
In that dark hall, Lin Chen was still calm, like a cloud in the night sky or a wind higher than the clouds.
He said, “In fact, when Jiang Liu jumped from the rooftop, I was also there, because my shimei also jumped from there. I don’t really know her that well. She may have been in too much pain and wanted to seek relief through death, but for me, I have always regretted that I did not save her, because if possible, I still hope to have another drink with her.”
Lin Chen stretched out his hand and gently rubbed the hair of the boy with beady eyes that was in front of him and said, “You actually don’t need the group to give you the illusion of being loved. There might not be many people in the world who like you, but there are always one or two who truly love you sincerely and unreservedly.”
“If you come out, you will see it.” He let go of the hand covering the boy’s hair and said, half idly, half seriously, “Although it’s just my hope, and this hope has nothing to do with you, I hope that no matter how unbearable the world is, you can hold on, come out, and take a look at it again.”
Su Fengzi wasn’t a good person.
To a large extent, he matched Fu Hao’s comments about being a “despicable, shameless, sinister, and nasty person”, but even Fu Hao couldn’t deny that Su Fengzi was an excellent storyteller. He was elegant, full of passion, and possessed bewitching powers as he stood there telling a story.
Because the half-true, half-false story told by Su Fengzi was too moving, those children really let go of the idea of burning the world in the end. Maybe even the people behind the scenes didn’t expect that their seemingly invincible organization would fall apart in an instant.
Su Fengzi was dragged away by an ambulance because of his serious hand injury, and Jiang Chao had already started a real net collection operation based on the many clues provided by the students. Xing Conglian, of course, was excluded because of certain “betrayal” behaviors.
At this moment, he and Lin Chen were sitting side by side in the corridor of Yongchuan University Hospital. Lin Chen’s wrist was lifted high, and there was an ice pack that the nurse gave him pressing on it.
Half an hour ago, Lin Chen refused to go to the hospital with Su Fengzi. Xing Conglian knew he probably wanted to be alone, so they had been sitting in the corridor for 20 minutes. He wanted to talk, but he didn’t say a word.
The school hospital of Yongchuan University didn’t have the cold atmosphere of ordinary hospitals that they were used to. It was lively around them. Students always got sick or injured together, so sometimes it was quiet and other times it was clamorous.
They appeared to be at a time when business was booming.
Xing Conglian looked at the basketball players whose names had just been called in front of them, and he counted them. According to the doctor’s current consultation speed, they would probably have to wait another half hour. Just as he was looking around, he suddenly heard Lin Chen speak.
“Today, thank you very much.”
Xing Conglian suspected there was something wrong with his hearing. He turned his head to look at Lin Chen in disbelief, completely shocked.
“You don’t need to say those polite or self-depreciating words. I said thank you because I wanted to thank you. If you weren’t here today and were replaced by someone else, there wouldn’t be an all-win possibility.”
After Lin Chen finished speaking, he found that Xing Conglian hadn’t responded for a long time, so he finally looked beside him.
Xing Conglian lowered his eyes and took out a cigarette and lighter from his pocket. He held those two things in his hand without making any movement.
“What’s the matter?” Lin Chen asked.
“Smoking isn’t allowed in the hospital,” Xing Conglian said.
Naturally, people like Xing Conglian wouldn’t be sad if they couldn’t smoke. In fact, the word sad wasn’t really suited for him. “If you’re in a bad mood, you can tell me.”
“It’s not that I’m in a bad mood, it’s just that I’ve always thought people have the ability and must control themselves, but the longer I stay with you, the more I realize that it’s really easy for people to lose control.,” Xing Conglian said as he stuffed the cigarette in his mouth but didn’t light it. “I want to smoke a cigarette really badly, so I took it out. It feels so natural…”
“If it’s natural, then what’s the problem?”
Xing Conglian turned the cigarette pack over and handed it to Lin Chen. “Look, it says smoking is harmful for your health, so should I not smoke?” He inserted the cigarette back into the pack. “I have never had the idea of quitting, but just now, I suddenly thought of doing it, and it already made me feel uncomfortable. I think I probably won’t be able to quit smoking in this life.”
Lin Chen looked at Xing Conglian’s annoyed face and wanted to say, “If you can’t quit, you can’t. Besides, I don’t care if you smoke or not.”
However, he naturally knew what Xing Conglian really wanted to say.
“Do you feel pain?” he asked.
“Then congratulations, you’re still alive.” Lin Chen pressed the ice pack in his hand and grimaced in pain as he continued, “And, congratulations, when you feel pain because you’re trying to control yourself, it means that you’re fighting against bad habits for a beautiful and healthy life.”
“Is this the tone you take when you do psychological counseling?” Xing Conglian curled his lips as if he disliked him for being too casual.
“If I adjust my tune, the fees are generally higher,” Lin Chen replied.
Xing Conglian couldn’t help laughing. He stretched out his hand and took the ice pack from Lin Chen’s hand and applied it to him. “I just suddenly understood what you said about being unable to control yourself because you have to control your greed, fear, vanity, and laziness to get better. Life is really too painful, so that’s why those children chose a different path.”
Lin Chen looked at Xing Conglian’s relaxed, peaceful, and profound gaze and felt his heart tremble.
Indeed, they were just ordinary people who yearned for a better life but were led astray because of their simple yearning.
Perhaps because there were too many books that portrayed the beauty of life when, in fact, life was originally a painful journey.
As for human nature, the reason it was great was because everyone was born with the nature of fighting against greed, fear, vanity, selfishness, stupidity, laziness, and cruelty. Even if sometimes the power of this kind of struggle was small and desperate, it always existed.
People always suffered because of struggle, but they could also be called human because of these struggles.
“The hero of that story shouldn’t be Jiang Liu.”
Xing Conglian suddenly remembered that if Su Fengzi had approached Fu Hao long before the jumping case, he didn’t actually appear because of Jiang Liu.
But if not her, then who?
He also realized that the reason they were able to solve everything smoothly was because Wang Shishi left her book behind.
It may have been that she forgot to deal with it, or it may have been a negligent mistake, but in the end, Wang Shishi still left that book behind in the last moments of her life.
Yongchuan University Female Dormitory, Building 7, Room 201, 4 beds, 6:30 a.m.
When Jin Xiaoan saw the video, it was already the next morning.
In fact, she didn’t sleep well last night. Overall, her heart was still calm. After all, everything was finally coming to an end, so she deserved to spend the last night of her life in peace.
But for some reason, there was always a feeling of uneasiness deep in her heart.
She opened her eyes very early. At that time, there was barely any light outside the window. She felt as if she hadn’t woken up this early in a long time. She turned around slightly, picked up the phone that was fully charged, and clicked on it as usual. This was the place she looked at every day after opening her eyes.
It was like washing her face and brushing her teeth; such an act was like cleansing her heart as she chanted her scriptures. This was what she did every morning, and it had an important sense of ritual. At this time, she was in a mood for nostalgia or homage and thought about that place and wanted to take another look. After all, it was the most beautiful place in her memories.
But the beauty was no longer there because she saw the video.
The video was silent, but she could hear manic drum sounds beating in his ears, as if someone were roaring and screaming at her. In the midst of the chaos, there was a figure with an expression of indifference.
She watched helplessly as the person ruined the beauty in her mind.
Bright red blood dripped from the walls. The figure’s writing speed wasn’t fast, but in the dark space, those bright red characters were like countless ants devouring her world.
Seeing the original white wall defiled like this, Ji Xiaoan’s hand holding the phone trembled. Finally, the person’s writing paused. Jin Xiaoan curled up abruptly and began to gasp in anger.
She leaned against the cold wall, trying to calm herself down, but she discovered that the person in the video didn’t have any intention of stopping.
The figure just walked leisurely to the edge of the paint bucket, dipped his brush into the bright red paint, and then returned to the wall again.
The red paint dripped from the brush onto the wooden floor. It was so dirty, and it took them a long time to wipe that floor clean…
Seeing this, she subconsciously stretched out her hand and rubbed hard on the phone screen, trying to get rid of the stains, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t wipe the dirt away.
Her fingertips became hot, and her anger burned like a flame—at her fingers, in her eyes, in her chest. She sat straight up and smashed the phone, creating a loud bang.
The sound of people waking up immediately filled the bedroom. At first, it was her roommates who woke up and didn’t seem to know what had happened. A few seconds later, angry scolding could be heard.
“What idiot isn’t asleep!”
“Get out if you’re not sleeping!”
Not only in the bedroom, but even next door, there were angry pounding on the wall.
The voices rumbled in her ears as Jin Xiaoan tried her best to restrain the urge to kill. She gritted her teeth and crawled out of bed cautiously. She gathered the pieces of her smashed phone and reassembled them slowly, then tentatively turned over the phone again.
The screen lit up, the webpage lit up, and the video lit up again. She dragged the video bar to the end in a daze.
The picture was frozen in the empty room. Only red blood meandered down from the wall, but her gaze was frozen at the end of all the formulas, where there was an obvious message to them.
Seeing that line of information, it was impossible for her to smash her phone again, so she opened the curtains and turned on the lights. She ignored the insults that sounded in the bedroom again, opened the book, and found the corresponding world.
*Originally in English.
It meant garbage. What other intention was there to leave this word on the wall than to curse, but specifically curse at people who could understand the word.
You guys are rubbish.
You’re garbage who lives in a dark corner.
Countless words passed through Jin Xiaoan’s mind. She pursed her lips. From beginning to end, she didn’t see that person’s face, but she could feel that person’s condescending voice and contemptuous eyes.
That person had smashed the door, cracked their code, and written out the formula all over the walls, just so he could call them rubbish?
It truly made people want to kill.
Ji Xiaoan tasted saltiness in her mouth and smelled rust. Perhaps extreme anger could also be calming. At least, this was what she thought. She didn’t make any more noise. She closed the curtains, turned off the lights, and then sat down quietly at her desk.
Some people were as angry as Jin Xiaoan. In a dormitory some distance away from Jin Xiaoan, specifically in Yongchuan University of Technology, which was adjacent to the Yongchuan University campus.
In dorm room 6-601, the protagonist was a boy.
Shen Ran woke up earlier than Jin Xiaoan. He was awakened by a sudden text message at around 5 a.m.
He picked up his phone in a daze. The sender had no name, and the content of the text message was only one extremely short message: [Go to the Yongchuan University City forum.]
Shen Ran was still sleepy and wasn’t in the same tense mood as Jin Xiaoan. On the last night of his life, he had slept soundly. If it weren’t for the fact that he felt the number looked familiar, he would’ve put down his phone and gone back to sleep again.
Well, it didn’t take much time to go to a website with his phone, so he opened the forum and immediately saw the top post at first glance.
With bright red headlines, cool highlights, and thousands of replies, on such a deep night, the content inside must be quite sensational. This was, in fact, the case. When he clicked on it, he saw a wall covered with red paint.
Probably because he had seen this place so many times that it was deeply engraved in his mind, although the original white walls were now covered in blood-red handwriting, he didn’t even need to enlarge the picture to know where it was.
At that moment, his reaction was the same as Jin Xiaoan’s. He was angry. He wanted to kill. His drowsiness had disappeared without a trace, and he felt all his muscles trembling uncontrollably, but perhaps because the night was still deep or because different people reacted differently, he was able to restrain his anger and read the post carefully from start to finish.
Finally, he opened his messaging app and sent a text back to the anonymous sender.
[Who are you?]
But the other end didn’t reply to him in text but sent him a multimedia message. Because he had read the post, Shen Ran could identify the content of the MMS without any effort.
This was the floor in the comment section that was forcibly removed from the entire long post, and someone had saved it in the form of screen shots.
When Shen Ran downloaded the picture, his fingers were cramping nervously. Soon, like many sleepless students in University City, he saw the “unspeakable” reply.
In fact, it didn’t seem like the reply was such a big deal. It was only the second half of a 150-person list indicating the school’s top rankers in 2013, 2014, and 2015. The difference from the long list was that there were four names on the list that were circled. Other than that, there was nothing else in the screenshot.
The problem, most likely, was the four circles—or rather, the names that were circled.
Shen Ran used the most unimaginative but effective way. He typed the names in the search box and pressed enter.
In an instant, the search engine listed thousands of results for him, and the most important and closest result was impressively at the top.
[The list of the 10th General Election of the Yongchuan University City Joint Association of Science and Technology Application is as follows:]
With almost perverse excitement, Shen Ran clicked on the campus news. Sure enough, the news seemed to have been deleted, but a snapshot of the webpage captured by the search engine still existed.
He saw the four names in it, and the president of the association was Chen Xuan, the owner behind the famous ID that suddenly went online and then offline.
Probably the heavens had opened his eyes, or rather, those self-righteous idiots didn’t expect that the power of the masses was so great that the things they were trying to hide were picked up in an instant.
Shen Ran continued his search.
As with the result of the conjecture, almost all information of the Science and Technology Association was almost wiped, but this kind of remedial measures taken under panic was full of loopholes.
He quickly found the organizational structure of the association, the location of the event, and the arrangements for the event…
What bullshit “Three Graves”. This was simply a small student club that was completely unknown. They were pretending to be ghosts playing tricks, thinking that they were so refined and extraordinary, but in fact, they were just trash that didn’t dare show their true colors!
Shen Ran clenched the phone tightly and continued his search…
He suddenly discovered that the group of people also had a routine meeting today.
What a wonderful coincidence.
With this in mind, Shen Ran edited the information he found into a text message and sent it out.
Countless messages, together with the rising sun, spread rapidly throughout University City at a pace that was fast, but wasn’t unstoppable.
However, in this world, what humans really couldn’t do was stop time.
It was April 14th, 12:00 p.m.
The sun was just right, and it wasn’t affected by yesterday’s rain in the slightest.
Everything on the campus showed an undisguised sign of spring, such as flowers on the side of the road or the legs of girls; they all exuded warmth as if they had a sweet smell of chocolate.
The bell just rang, indicating the end of class. Students were laughing happily around the cafeteria. Jin Xiaoan carried a plastic bag and walked out of the cafeteria against the flow of people.
This was her lunch.
The cafeteria at Yongchuan University sold a lot of delicious food, but her favorite was the 50-yen buns that came in a pack of three and were sold on the corner of the second floor. If it were like usual, she wouldn’t eat the buns at noon, but since today was her last moment, she felt she deserved to treat herself to the best thing in life.
So she carried the buns and walked to the lake.
Because of the suicide two days ago, there were few people here. It was quiet under the banyan tree. The air was filled with the smell of candles, and the sound of water was inaudible.
Her favorite place was under this banyan tree. She sat down by the tree, opened the plastic bag, and took a bite from her favorite bun.
Everyone’s preferences were different. After all, people were different.
Shen Ran, unlike Jin Xiaoan, didn’t believe there were any beautiful things in life worth remembering, so after class ended at noon, he skipped lunch and wandered through the entire campus until he came to the ruins by a playground.
When everyone was running to the cafeteria, no one noticed what he was doing standing by the ruins. People in this world were always so indifferent that they would eventually die from it.
Shen Ran’s gaze swept across the ruins and found the mark he had made. He removed some bricks and pulled out something at the bottom.
Under the banyan tree at Yongchuan University, the girl who had just finished gnawing on her buns stood up.
In the campus kiosk, someone pulled up their hoodie and checked out their newly selected fruit knife in front of the cashier.
In front of a car repair stall, someone stuffed an abandoned chain into their pocket.
On the road, someone tightened their clothes as they walked slowly forward…
In all people’s lives, some people eventually walk on a completely different path than the rest.
They were angry and determined and had started to gather from all directions.
Right now, it was an inappropriate point in time for him to respond, but in life, there were always moments where people would act inexplicably.
It was like a flower with dew or a roasted potato on a winter’s night; for Lin Chen, he spent too much time giving advice and making suggestions to others, so it came as a surprise to hear someone admonish him. While shock came first, he became deeply moved, and, finally, the only emotion he felt left was touched.
The night breeze carried the wetness of the morning dew.
Lin Chen looked at Xing Conglian’s back and gradually moved towards the light. The white light made the figure shaggy before it disappeared around the corner.
Suddenly, Lin Chen felt a darkness in front of him. Someone had covered his eyes with a hand.
“Tsk, don’t look back. Don’t look at me like that.” Su Fengzi’s playful voice sounded in his ears.
Lin Chen grabbed Su Fengzi’s wrist, turned around, and was flabbergasted. “Is it time to talk about such things now?”
“What kind of thing? The thing where your unshakable heart finally begins to sprout or is it that your clear and restrained eyes are staring at your work partner?” Su Fengzi leaned over slightly. Lin Chen had the feeling that he was going to be seen through by him. Just when he wanted to interrupt, he heard Su Fengzi say, “But no matter what it is, it’s not just about when you get married. You still have to pick an auspicious date, no?”
When it came to verbal fights, Lin Chen felt that Su Fengzi was invincible.
“Your use of metaphors is so bad, it’s no wonder why your books don’t sell.” Lin Chen had no choice but to quip back like so.
Su Fengzi, on the other hand, was not one to tolerate interruptions.
“Then I’ll change my wording. You don’t really like that officer, do you?” Su Fengzi asked bluntly.
Lin Chen had also thought about the kind of scene when his emotions were revealed, but unlike the imagined nervousness or disorientation, when he heard Su Fengzi ask this question, he didn’t have any anxiety or panic but was rather quite calm.
After all, this moment would come eventually, and there was nothing wrong with it coming now. Then, since that was so, there was nothing wrong with telling him the truth.
“That’s right,” he replied.
Hearing this, even Su Fengzi was surprised. “You could at least be reserved.”
“Why?” Lin Chen put his hands in his pocket, not quite understanding what Su Fengzi meant.
“Well, you’re gay now. Shouldn’t you have any sense of entanglement that violates worldly ethics or a sense of fear that your feelings won’t be responded to? In short, shouldn’t you be at least ashamed?”
“I like him. What does that matter to him?” Lin Chen couldn’t help asking.
Too often, the pain of love came from having your feelings unreciprocated, but Lin Chen didn’t have this kind of problem.
Finally, even Su Fengzi’s tone was no longer as teasing as before. He asked this solemnly, with the sincerest concern, for someone who was his friend. It was heavy, unlike the light wind from outside.
Lin Chen didn’t expect him to ask this so seriously, which left him a bit speechless.
In fact, he felt that he couldn’t even answer this question.
How much did he like him? Why did he like him? How could there be so many reasons?
This kind of thing was just a feeling, and it was even more inexplicable to feel such a feeling.
Perhaps it was when he saw him for the first time.
Perhaps it was when he saw him for the second time.
Perhaps it was when he left him, or maybe it was when they were reunited again.
Perhaps it was because the weather was too good in the rest station that day, and he looked so handsome in that windbreaker, or perhaps it was when they were in the command center and his strategizing look made him feel reassured.
Perhaps it was the half-withered look of the bunch of lilies in front of his tomb that was beautiful, or perhaps it was the way he lowered his head, looking too gentle as he planted flowers…
There were so many possibilities, and as they accumulated, it became inevitable.
At least, Lin Chen thought, there were really not many lucky things he had encountered in his life, so things that made him feel lucky had perhaps accumulated to the point where they became inevitable.
“He is like a piece of candy. Very sweet after just one bite that you’re reluctant to spit it out.” Lin Chen thought seriously for a moment and decided to answer using a metaphor.
“You got a bit emotional when you said that.”
“But it’s really sweet.”
After Lin Chen said this, their conversation ended.
This was an appropriate break. Among friends, the most valuable thing wasn’t endless talk, but timely care and just stopping when it was right.
Lin Chen walked back to the brightly lit office. All the arrangements had been completed.
Some of the police officers in the second division were lying on the table and sleeping lightly; some began to shut down while others looked at him with uncertain and helpless eyes.
They seemed to be asking, “Is this really useful? Will they really take the bait tomorrow?”
Lin Chen read a passage from the most famous book on popular psychology research.
Roughly speaking, it said:
As an individual, a person is rational, so good and evil can be used to move his emotions, to regulate his thoughts, and to restrain his behavior with interests…
For example, because rationality can restrain sensibility, he will not provoke Xing Conglian because of his personal feelings. Unfortunately, this kind of rationality isn’t effective in groups.
To use an inappropriate metaphor, if he’s in a fanatical fan club for Xing Conglian and is surrounded by other Xing Conglian’s fans, he won’t be able to control his love rationally.
So, solving a group that’s deeply embedded in the collective unconscious is about as difficult as disenchanting a group of rabid fans.
First, time certainly works. Most people will lose their fanaticism and regain their sanity over time, but in the absence of time, to influence a group, it’s necessary to use all kinds of tricks and dirty tactics.
In fact, the theory was simple.
Groups weren’t restricted by reason and logic, but they had a wealth of imagination and pseudo-reasoning skills. They seemed to be inclined to believe in something impossible, something illogical, something that didn’t exist, but they didn’t believe in daily logic.
For instance, in ancient times, people sincerely believed that shamans could summon heavy rain through sacrifices. For this reason, they were willing to kneel for three days and nights or kill women and children in other tribes and use their lives as an offering for the heavens.
The beginning of these beliefs may have just been an occasional wind that blew when the shaman chanted or a sudden rain that fell in the days after he cast his spell.
In short, the more connections that seemed to exist on the surface, the more group members could make people believe in them.
Therefore, he just shaped the belief that a group of elites guarded the campus. Although an ordinary student would be skeptical about this, they would think, ‘Is that document really a settlement agreement signed by “Three Graves” to help the elderly and punish the bad pharmaceutical company?’ They would suspect Lin Chen, who had appeared at the crime scene, and wonder if he was a member of “Three Graves.” They would even consider that the three semicircles signature was really a logo of a certain campus elite organization, and since that logo had appeared, it could prove that the campus elite organization really existed.
But it was different for the members of the group.
Once they saw the superficial connection and the unreliable evidence, their imaginations would already be vividly running wild. They would imagine the faces of the members of “Three Graves”; imagine a situation where tall and outstanding campus elites gathered together. Not only that, but they would also be convinced of the fact that the members of the “Three Graves” were plotting to get rid of them. They could even clearly visualize the contempt and disgust those campus elites had for them.
People often had paranoia about being victimized based on biological instincts of self-protection, and among them, the members of this group were more susceptible. Just as fans would hate anyone who spoke ill of their idols and regarded those people as enemies that had to be defeated, members of extreme groups would naturally dislike those who challenged them.
While fans would only tap keyboards to fight with the bad guys, these members of that group would really take up arms and smash the heads of those who opposed them.
What was more, Ye Yan vividly portrayed one of the most classic villain images; defiling the holy land in their minds and leaving the most disdainful words on it.
Lin Chen could fully imagine that tomorrow—no—in just a few hours, that anger would accumulate into a kind of violent storm that would come barreling down towards him.