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.
What answered Su Heting was a busy dial tone. He called back and said, “Alright. I guess not. Or, have you ever had any brothers?”
What answered Su Heting was still a busy dial tone. He persisted, called back yet again, and said at the speed of a bullet train the very instant the other side connected the call, “Fine he’s a lunatic who has nothing to do with you he’s sick in the head although he’s pretty smart so what game are you planning to play can you tell me the details I’m not participating I’m just curious.”
Yan Junxun ignored him and looked back at that scrap of a private car. The plush toy with a tilted head was still sitting inside, as if it had been abandoned among this thick undergrowth of steel. An innocent person had been swept up into a lunatic’s game, turning a pile of bloodied flesh in the manipulator’s bag.
The other party wanted to tell Yan Junxun: this is how the game has to be played.
This madman gave Yan Junxun a subtle sense of familiarity. It made him feel as though he was looking in the mirror. He did not want to discuss it with anyone, but he felt he had met this madman before. Yan Junxun did not believe a single word the madman said.
This person was being deliberately provocative. He wanted to infuriate Yan Junxun. His train of thought—Yan Junxun stood among the entire ground of glass shards and thought, this madman’s train of thoughts was just as fast as his. Su Heting’s intuition was right. This person understood systems. He knew Yan Junxun’s way of computation. But then, he was too impatient. Whether it was that clown or the recording this time, he had all been itching to write his own understanding of Yan Junxun all over his face.
I know what to do to make you angry. So hurry up and get angry. Fly into a rage. Go hysterical! Pick up your steel rod again like the time you were anticipating it and smash the confidence you have in yourself rotten. Descend into madness first before you are destroyed. This is far more fun than outright death.
Yan Junxun shoved the steel rod back under his car seat. He liked to put things back in their original position, in exactly the right spot. He sat back in the car, turned on the air conditioner, and signaled with his eyes for Shi Shan Yan to get in.
“My big bro is calling me.” Shi Shanyan gave up the thought of smoking a cigarette. He could only put one hand in his pocket because of the restraint lock. He lowered his head and lightly kicked away the glass shards by his feet, then said to Su Heting with a smile, “See how great he is. His control of his emotions is top-notch. It’s as if the data had been keyed in beforehand. He flares up when it’s time to erupt and reverts to a calm state after the outburst.” The sunlight dazzled him when he raised his head, but he did not avoid it and merely squinted a little. “He’s 10,000 times more adorable than your blusterous manner… but I’d prefer him to get angry with me than waste his emotions on a sewer rat.”
“My guess is that he never noticed you at all. In his eyes, you’re an alarm that will make him see red light alerts any time.” Su Heting was not the same kind of pervert as Shi Shanyan, but he understood Shi Shanyan’s interests well. “I even suspect Fu Chenghui is doing it on purpose. He uses Yan Junxun to draw you in, so that you’ll behave yourself and stop standing at the peak flaunting your might like a lion.”
“Then I’m very satisfied.” Shi Shanyan’s voice gradually grew deeper. “That is, if no one interferes.”
◈ ◈ ◈
There was some sweat at the tips of Yan Junxun’s hair, which made his eyes appear all the more watery and shiny when he looked at Shi Shanyan. His entire person was like a rainier cherry that had just been soaked in cool water, with thin skin so smooth and lustrous that a pinch could leave marks behind. His body was a little delicate. He could not withstand hot and cold attacks; just a bit of fiery sunlight could make him sweat.
Yan Junxun’s body was a lot more honest than Yan Junxun himself. In Shi Shanyan’s eyes, it was rather pitiable to be ferrying a soul that was like a ball of thorns; it was already being crammed to the point of bursting.
Shi Shanyan hung up on Su Heting outside the car. He entered to take his seat and asked as he put on the seatbelt, “Where are we going next?”
Yan Junxun did not reply immediately. He turned back and looked ahead, then said after a long time, “I want the communicator.”
Shi Shanyan handed it over, but did not release his hand when Yan Junxun took it. Shi Shanyan’s fingertips almost touched Yan Junxun’s fingertips, but this was not his fault. He was only passing the stuff over in a very normal, casual way.
Yan Junxun’s fingers did not shrink back, and this made Shi Shanyan feel good. However, he had to suppress the desire to push his luck, lest he grabbed hold of Yan Junxun’s hand in the next second.
“I beg your pardon.” Shi Shanyan looked at Yan Junxun and loosened his grip. “Are you going to call Jiang Lian?”
“Jiang Lian knows the details of the case.” Yan Junxun took the communicator. There was still the lingering warmth of Shi Shanyan on it. Yan Junxun felt a little unaccustomed to it, but he did not let it show.
This lunatic—Yan Junxun intended to address the other party this way. This lunatic used Huo Qingjun as an opening statement. He wanted to tell Yan Junxun that he had the ability to manipulate black and white—good and evil. He designated the victim and murderer as if he was playing with puppets on strings and screwed up other people’s lives without the slightest sense of guilt. Yan Junxun finally understood where his feeling that something always felt off in this case came from. It was the highlighting of the murderer in such an obvious way, all to let Yan Junxun “see” it clearly.
“Let me think.” Yan Junxun tossed the communicator beside his hand and looked at Shi Shanyan. “Let me think about everything you have said around me. You understand his motive. You realized a long time ago that there’s a lunatic involved in this case.” He stared at Shi Shanyan and stressed his words, “Right?”
“Then you’d better think about it carefully.” Shi Shanyan picked up the water bottle at the side and asked in a natural manner, “Can I have a drink?”
The way he asked was so pure, as if he was a civilized and well-mannered older brother.
“Don’t ask me.” Yan Junxun peeled his disguise off. “You have no intention of putting it back the way it is.”
Shi Shanyan unscrewed the cap. In the very second before he drank it, his eyes brushed across Yan Junxun’s lips. It was only for a second, but it was enough. He said happily, “You really understand me.”
Shi Shanyan’s Adam’s apple bobbed under Yan Junxun’s gaze. The sound of him swallowing was not really loud, but Yan Junxun could hear it very clearly. He did not mean to think too much about it, but this sound clung close to his ears, and it felt like—
Shi Shanyan’s voice was very sexy.1
“Likes being on the news. Likes being targeted.” Yan Junxun shifted his gaze away. Even if he was expressionless, he still looked as if he was a little flustered. “You were talking about the lunatic back then.”
“Not really.” Shi Shanyan thought as he squeezed the bottle. “When I use ‘I’ as the subject, I’m expressing myself. Do you really think he likes to be on the news?”
The trucks on the other end of the tunnel began to drive, and the sound of horns gradually came closer. Yan Junxun had to get down and bury his face in his arms, which were sticking against the steering wheel.
Yan Junxun thought, the lunatic did not like being on the news. That was right; he did not like it. So far, he had shown a marked preference for manipulating others. Standing behind the scenes gave him a greater sense of accomplishment.
“A woman who has experienced long-term sexual violence and emotional abuse.” Shi Shanyan spoke slowly, his voice edging along Yan Junxun’s ears to enter within. Even the way he enunciated his words was a little gentle. “She has to have extraordinary courage to resist. Who guided her into doing this kind of thing? You like to mull over those details, so why not lay it all out and think about this murder in the way you’re good at?”
“The lunatic designed a scheme for the murder cases.” Yan Junxun was very clear of this. “He spurred on the murderer to act.”
“Of course, this lunatic, hm—” Shi Shanyan frowned slightly, as if the mention of the other party displeased him. “This rat likes to scurry around the internet. That’s where his ability lies.”
“It takes time for him to guide the murderer.” Paying no attention to whether his face had gone red from being pressed against the steering wheel, Yan Junxun turned his face aside and said to Shi Shanyan, “He has to make the murderer abnormal first.”
The abnormality of the murderer was pervasive throughout the case.
“Let’s make an assumption. If the murderer killed her husband who abused her…”
“There’s no need for you to assume when there are only two of us here.” Shi Shanyan stressed. “Don’t let Artemis and Jiang Lian get to you. You’re a genius.”
All the confusing information in Yan Junxun’s mind quietened down. He seemed to be sitting on the glass shards piecing a puzzle together. He picked through the shards and attempted to get a clearer look.
The murderer killed her husband who abused her.
She had been physically abused so many times. Perhaps she had run away before, but she was hauled back by her hair. She suffered all these for a long time—long enough that the abuses started even before the war. What was Yan Junxun doing before the war? He forgot. But that did not matter. His memory was not worth mentioning. In any case, the murderer endured it for a very long time. Her only option was to endure, because no one gave her a second option.
“She’s not…” Yan Junxun could not find the right words to describe the murderer. “She is full of compassion for things smaller and weaker than herself. To her, this is the only dignity she has left. She’s very good to her child.”
That was why she insisted on returning to Li Jianhua’s house to feed those goldfishes. She was afraid they would starve to death.
“But the child is gone.” Yan Junxun’s gaze gradually focused. “It was a huge blow to her.”
Her husband was not a good husband, nor was he a good father. Just take a look at what she was doing? She put all the guilt she harbored towards her child into Li Jianhua’s system, where she played the role of father and mother.
“The child is the turning point. They must have had a fight over it.” Yan Junxun wanted to smoke again. He did not want to think of all those scenes. “Then, she killed her husband. And this was the beginning.”
That was right. This was the beginning. The beginning for the murderer and the lunatic.
The lunatic did not care about the miserable lives of these people. He carefully made his selection and bound these people by their necks like rag dolls before tacking them to his own creations. But the murderer’s suffering should have ended after she killed off her husband. Yet, the lunatic had to make this suffering last. His game had only just begun.
What the fuck did this scum do?
“He has to give the murderer some cues.” Shi Shanyan pointed at his own head without touching it. “So that the murderer will realize her abnormality. This tactic is very similar to our commonly used surveillance technique. If you don’t want to be discovered by the mission target, then you’d have to give him some signals to make him doubt himself. When he can’t find anything, he will start to think that there’s something wrong with himself.”
“He continued to incite the murderer.” Yan Junxun looked at the communicator that had been set aside. “Using the safest way possible.”
◈ ◈ ◈
Chen Xiulian could not remember when He Zhiguo appeared. She was indeed a little forgetful. In any case, He Zhiguo’s voice was always there. Sometimes, it was like the buzz of a mosquito, and sometimes, it was like the blast of a car horn. The day she killed He Zhiguo was a very long time ago. He Zhiguo was lying in bed.
Oh. Chen Xiulian recalled it. He Zhiguo was paralyzed at the time.
The bastard beast was paralyzed.
Is my daughter finishing class soon?
Chen Xiulian had asked He Zhiguo when she served him rice, and he looked as if he had seen a ghost. Chen Xiulian felt disheartened. She just wanted to go and picked Qinqin up from class. She fed He Zhiguo rice. He Zhiguo cussed at her, calling her a madwoman.
I’m not mad.
Chen Xiulian looked at He Zhiguo in the black-and-white photo and repeated softly, “I’m not mad. I understand what I’m doing. You are the one who doesn’t understand. You understand nothing.”
That’s right, how could a beast understand? There were only signals of aggression in his mind.
Humans were really strange. Chen Xiulian was always puzzled. Why was it that everyone walked on their two legs, and yet there were always some deviants? They did not seem to belong to this group. They survived on violence, motivated by the tearing apart of and the destroying of lives.
Can’t you fucking see it’s already bloody there?
“Fuck you…” He Zhiguo hurled abuses in Chen Xiulian’s ears again.
You can’t see.
Chen Xiulian lifted the photo and tore it up little by little to watch He Zhiguo’s face split apart. She retained the eyes on He Zhiguo’s photo and stuck them to the wall in the basement.
Chen Xiulian turned on the lights. She was in a good mood.
“This is how you die.”
Thank you Peach for proofreading!