Potential triggers for the entire novel:
Domestic abuse, sexual assault, suicide, nonconsensual sex (main cp).
T97 mentions this is an experimental work. Read @ your own risk.
If any of the above are landmines for you, please stop reading now.
Shi Shanyan was a hunter who excelled in luring his prey into a trap. He knew what could disturb Yan Junxun. At this moment, he did not care why Yan Junxun wanted the communicator-navigator. All he wanted was to make Yan Junxun walk into his territory.
The Inspection Bureau’s system interjected at the most inopportune moment. “Please do not enter 01AE86’s room. The system can serve you should the need arise.”
“Contact Jiang Lian.” Yan Junxun took a few steps back. “I’m looking for him.”
Watching his prey leave before his very eyes, Shi Shanyan regretfully thought that perhaps he should have just busted those cameras before he took a shower.
“Contact failed.” The Inspection Bureau’s system attempted to dial before it answered, “The indoor system rejected the call.”
“Call again.” Yan Junxun had already turned around to head downstairs. “Call until he wakes up.”
The Inspection Bureau’s system thoughtfully turned up the corridor lights for Yan Junxun. At the same time Yan Junxun pressed for the lift, his thoughts surged like water that had broken free of the dam. He did not care about Shi Shanyan. He only cared about why the murderer had to place her bicycle at the entrance of Li Jianhua’s house.
The elevator in the partitioned zone had to undergo layers of verification too. It took so long that Yan Junxun began to fret after a few seconds. He had no idea why he was anxious either.
“Contact failed again.” The Inspection Bureau’s system suggested, “Perhaps you could go to him.”
The system’s voice interrupted Yan Junxun’s thoughts. He looked at the tightly shut elevator door. He wanted to say, forget it. What did it have to do with him? He had already done what he should do. He said it a long time before that he wasn’t really suited for investigating cases. Give this world back to the righteous Inspection Bureau. He should return home and continue sleeping.
But why did the murderer have to place her bicycle at the entrance of Li Jianhua’s house?
She might have scrubbed her shoes because they were stained with obvious location markers. For example, she stepped on dog poop while riding, and it just so happened that there was a public square near Puli where people could walk their dogs. But Yan Junxun could not understand why she would put her bike back as well.
Shi Shanyan was very speedy in dressing himself, but he did not tidy his hair. He was in a good mood as he stood whistling beside Yan Junxun. The intermittent sound of whistling made it tough for Yan Junxun to continue thinking.
“If you can shut up,” Yan Junxun turned his head and said, “I’ll pretend I don’t know where you hid the communicator-navigator.”
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Shi Shanyan whistled at him as though he was provoking him.
“Did taking a cold shower made you dumb?” Yan Junxun tried to make himself chat about something else so that he could stop dwelling on the bike. But he did not know how to change the topic tactfully, and his gruff tone made it seem like he was reacting to Shi Shanyan’s provocation.
“How fierce of you.” As if teasing a cat, Shi Shanyan lifted a finger to point at his own head. “The elevator is taking so long to come, and Jiang Lian isn’t answering the call. How about we play a game? Guess what I was doing in the shower?”
“All you can do is to take a shower.” Yan Junxun pressed for the elevator once more. “And intracranial sexual harassment.”
“You know me well.” Shi Shanyan laughed, not at all surprised. “Do you think one can maintain normal physiological needs under constant surveillance?”
Yan Junxun’s concept of “sex” was very vague. The environment in which he grew up was special, so special that the average person would find it hard to imagine. He would deal with problems the way a system would, but he would not shy away from this issue like the average person would. He treated it as a term, just like the words “murder” and “mission”. He did not harbor any other ideas about it.
“That’d have to depend on the other party’s sense of shame.” Yan Junxun thought seriously about this question. “Although there’s a limit to how much a sense of shame can constrain.”
If an average person’s normal needs were to be restricted by “watchful eyes”, a sense of shame would act as a deterrent for a certain period of time. But what if this went on for a long time? Once the person was used to being “watched”, they would gradually acknowledge that they had no privacy, and their sense of shame would subsequently disappear too.
“You’ve been under constant surveillance for four years.” Yan Junxun swept his eyes up. There was still a system surveillance camera there. He asked Shi Shanyan, “Do you still have normal needs?”
Playing along, Shi Shanyan moved closer to him and whispered, “Who knows whether it’s normal or not? I always like to think of something stimulating.”
Yan Junxun withdrew his gaze and locked eyes with Shi Shanyan. He scrutinized Shi Shanyan for a moment, then said with certainty, “You won’t relieve your physiological needs under surveillance.”
Being monitored means being controlled. Shi Shanyan would not like this feeling; he preferred to keep a close watch on others. Yan Junxun felt that he was such a person. He showed no restraints when it came to himself, yet, in some way, he possessed self-control that differed from the average person. Regardless of whether it was constant surveillance or Black Panther’s reassessment, they were all harmless little games to him.
Shi Shanyan was very happy. It was like Yan Junxun’s gaze had little feelers that touched Shi Shanyan’s face and body in a careful search for traces of insanity deep inside him. Shi Shanyan wanted Yan Junxun to probe deeper and feel the part of him that was pitch-black as soon as possible. He controlled himself politely and complimented, “You are so clever.”
The elevator finally arrived.
Jiang Lian remained uncontactable the whole time. Yan Junxun even wondered if Jiang Lian had drunk alcohol tonight. Otherwise, he would have already received the call as per his usual practice.
Yan Junxun wanted to tell Jiang Lian that the murderer worked near Puli neighborhood. This was her range of activity, and she even rode a comical mountain bike. She paced back and forth around the victims’ residences. This was her spiritual mission. The floor number jumped to “8”, and Yan Junxun thought of Li Jianhua’s house once again.
“Puli neighborhood’s surveillance cameras broke down in that week. The property management’s report said a system failure caused the entire neighborhood’s surveillance camera screens to turn into static. It was only repaired half a month later.” Jiang Lian had even added on as he gave him the information. “But in such a half-new neighborhood like this, there are households that want to install an indoor system, and there are also those who have no such need. Consequently, the network of electric circuits in this neighborhood is a mess. Surveillance can only be set up in the elevators, underground parking lots, and the building entrances. That’s the extent of it.”
If the murderer was still active in Li Jianhua’s house after the murder, then she would have to pass by the surveillance cameras at the building entrance even if she did not pass by the surveillance cameras at the underground parking lot. She had to make herself act natural, like she was returning home. But she did not want to let the surveillance know which floor she went to, so she could only take the exit passageway, which did not have surveillance cameras.
When Yan Junxun went to Li Jianhua’s house, the door to the exit passageway was opened.
But why did she have to leave the bike there?
◈ ◈ ◈
Chen Xiulian stopped the truck and flashed the headlights at Yang Yu’s son who was standing at the entrance of Diba neighborhood to signal him to come over. The interior light of her vehicle was switched off, so the face of the person sitting within could not be clearly seen from the outside. All the tools she had prepared were at the side. She was already well-practiced in getting the other party to let their guard down first before making them pass out.
The ID communicator suddenly rang. Chen Xiulian did not want to answer, thinking that it was He Zhiguo who called. She stared at the “He Zhiguo” walking towards the truck and silently read out numbers in her mind. She had to recite the numbers; otherwise, she would forget the time. But the communicator was extraordinarily insistent tonight. She did not want the rings to scare off Yang Yu’s son.
Chen Xiulian connected the call. The sound of static was jarring to her ears. She thought she would hear He Zhiguo hollering at her, but it turned out to be an unfamiliar voice.
“Hello—” The voice changer distorted the other party’s voice as he said, “Kill him, and you will be jailed in no time. Why not try a different way of playing? I guarantee that the Inspection Bureau won’t be able to catch you.”
Chen Xiulian suspected that she had misheard.
The other party cleared his throat and said mysteriously, “You may call me ‘MaySnow’.”