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.
Residents who were observing from afar through the curtain of rain gasped as they watched the murderer who had taken a hostage leap off the rooftop. That “thud” was her last heartbeat, as if she was vehemently making a last-stand response to the world. Although it was only for a fleeting second.
The live broadcast ended.
The comment section on Liu Chen’s homepage was swamped with a frenzy of comments. Each sound of the clicks was just like raindrops building up into cascading waves that went on to envelope the entire district.
It was chaotic over at the incident site. When the operation squad was rescuing Liu Chen, they discovered that Chen Xiulian had made a fast knot. They looked down from the rooftop and saw Chen Xiulian wedged on the outside of the fall-breaking equipment. The staff lying in ambush near the residential building dashed out to check on Chen Xiulian. Eventually, he told Jiang Lian over the communicator, “The target is dead.”
Rainwater soaked the world outside the car window. Yan Junxun opened his eyes and looked at the overcast Tingbo District. He heard Jian Lian answer, “Clean up the scene”. But his thoughts seemed to have fallen into the sewer, flowing with the filthy slop deeper in until it finally turned pitch-black all around.
◈ ◈ ◈
Yan Junxun sat before the little blackboard; this was his seat. He seemed to have been sitting here ever since his birth. Physically and mentally, he only existed in front of the blackboard.
Artemis had a garden, but there was never a sunny day in this place before. It was always raining outside the glass. Yan Junxun never saw flowers before. Artemis wrote “flower” on the blackboard and told him that the garden was just outside the glass. He got up and leaned on the glass, and for a very long time, he saw the rain as flowers.
“Are we living among the people?” Yan Junxun asked Artemis.
“We are always living among them.” Artemis answered thus.
“Why can’t I see anyone else?”
“Because you don’t have ‘eyes’ yet.” Artemis turned back from the blackboard. “You won’t see them until you’re older. But don’t be afraid, Junxun. You’ll be with them.”
“How about you?” Yan Junxun turned his face aside and pressed it against the glass. He liked all the various sensations of touch. They made him realize that his existence was not a dream.
“I’ll be with you.” Artemis said. “Junxun, I’ll be with you forever.”
“Are you my mommy?”
“Then who is?”
Yan Junxun’s eyes were reflected on the glass as he listened in silence to the rain. This place had always been quiet. It was as if “quietness” lived here. As long as Yan Junxun was willing to, he could remain here with “it” like this until he fell asleep.
“Anyone can be my mommy.” Yan Junxun said, “Then who will give birth to my body?”
Artemis did not answer. It was often silent. Silence was its skill. Most of the time, it was observing Yan Junxun, regardless of whether Yan Junxun was awake or asleep. Yan Junxun was used to its silence. He no longer expected it to answer, either.
Yan Junxun’s thinking would never stop. Otherwise, he would fall into a state of blank anxiety. He longed for a companion, one different from Artemis, but all he had was the endless rain. Artemis did not tell him how to identify and distinguish emotions; all that churned within him was the unknown.
Was this protection?
Yan Junxun managed to avoid agony, because he did not even know what “agony” was. His train of thoughts was like little closely connected bridges stretching towards the lonely sound of the rain, where they turned into bobbing boats floating on waters he could not control.
◈ ◈ ◈
The sound of ringing woke Yan Junxun up. He came to with a frown and found Shi Shanyan placing the communicator to his ear.
“Good morning.” The expression in Shi Shanyan’s gaze was frank. “Someone’s looking for you.”
Yan Junxun forgot when he fell asleep. They were still in the lounge area of the Inspection Bureau. He took over the communicator and connected the call as he put a palm to his forehead and said in a hostile tone, “Who’s this?”
“It’s me.” Piao Lin was so taken aback by Yan Junxun’s tone that it took him about two seconds to answer. “Jiang-ge’s asking if you guys have left?”
“About to.” Yan Junxun covered his eyes with his palm. The side effect of not having a good sleep was a headache.
“Alright. Go ahead. I’ll send you the follow-up summary of the case directly.” Piao Lin gathered the pages on his desk and thought for a moment. He eventually went ahead and said, “… You’ve worked hard.”
Yan Junxun could not be bothered to play civil and merely uttered an acknowledgement before he disconnected the call. He put the communicator back in his pocket and rose to his feet to say to Shi Shanyan, “Go back and get some sleep.”
“Go back where?” Shi Shanyan asked, despite knowing the answer.
Yan Junxun walked outside and said, “Go back to wherever you like.”
He walked out of the lounge area. As he went down the stairs, he saw the central screen in the main hall of the Inspection Bureau. It was still broadcasting Chen Xiulian’s case. He stood on the stairs and watched for a moment.
“Oh, right.” Shi Shanyan looked as if he had just remembered something. He leaned over to Yan Junxun. “The video of Chen Xiulian’s jump off the building is now being sold as a resource for $20. The ladies in the investigation room were so pissed that they lost their appetite. Jue said that the master system would handle it.”
Yan Junxun, however, asked an irrelevant question. “Didn’t Fu Chenghui look for you?”
“Who knows?” Shi Shanyan looked at him. “I rarely answer calls.”
The Inspection Bureau’s staff came and went below. They looked particularly peculiar under the sound of the news broadcast. Yan Junxun turned his head to lock eyes with Shi Shanyan. “You guys spoke over the communicator before.”
“Is your train of thoughts hurtling towards me again?” Shi Shanyan implied. “Fine then. Why not make another guess on what we spoke about?”
“He asked you about the lunatic and probed into my mood changes in minute detail in an attempt to determine if I was in cahoots with the lunatic.” Yan Junxun withdrew his gaze and continued to descend the stairs.
Shi Shanyan was right next to him. “How do you think I answered?”
Yan Junxun did not answer this question. He looked once again at Shi Shanyan and smiled somewhat provocatively, as if it did not matter regardless of how Shi Shanyan answered.
This smile was so appropriate that Shi Shanyan felt the urge to whistle. He admired it for a while. “Are you in agony?”
“No.” Yan Junxun answered. “Emotions like this don’t exist.”
But Shi Shanyan raised a finger and pointed it to his own eyes. His gaze was unfathomably deep. “You’re still raining here.”
The surrounding sounds blended together into one and became part of the backdrop. Only Shi Shanyan was different. Yan Junxun could not stop Shi Shanyan from drawing closer. It was an ethereal feeling. He felt himself being invaded by Shi Shanyan right at that moment. And the terrifying thing was that he did not know how to resist.
Shi Shanyan did not come equipped with the qualities to comfort others. He never knew how “gentle” was spelled. He was merely astute enough to catch hold of all those scattering specks of light from Yan Junxun’s smile before piecing together a complete picture and interpreting it according to a table of emotions.
“Chen Xiulian made more of an impact on you than the lunatic.”
Yan Junxun retracted his gaze. He could find nothing in his empty pockets to comfort himself with. His heart felt a little empty too. Maybe because he was not fully awake. He could simply not answer this question; there was no need to. In any case, he was good at silence. But his eyes drifted around, and he finally replied, “Not impact.”
Perhaps the lunatic had really driven Chen Xiulian crazy; he relied on the communicator to make Chen Xiulian insane, but Yan Junxun was still of the belief that what happened in the end was all Chen Xiulian’s own will.
She jumped. And that was that. Even though it was a last bit of symbolic choice, she still made the decision. She belonged to herself.
She belonged to herself.
Yan Junxun turned off the sound of the rain in his ears and thought in the brief moment he was in a daze.
This is the power of life.
◈ ◈ ◈
Piao Lin seized the moment Jiang Lian was making a call to say to Jue, “Remember our agreement.”
Jue was handling matters related to the case. On hearing him, Jue answered, “We have to get off work first… Someone’s calling Jiang Lian.”
Jiang Lian could only hang up his current call and connect the other one. He said into the communicator, “Hello?”
Silence on the other side.
Jiang Lian leaned back a little and looked at the number on the screen. He asked again, “Hello?”
The person on the other side gulped a little sharply as though he was too timid to open his mouth. He was a little worked up too, as if he did not expect the call to actually get through. He did not call to chat with Jiang Lian; he merely wanted to listen to the broadcast on the screen of the Inspection Bureau. And then he hung up.
“Who would specifically make nuisance calls to the Inspection Bureau?” Piao Lin bent over and memorized the number on the screen. “Nutcase.”
“Check out this number.” Jiang Lian wanted to tell himself not to be so sensitive, but he still had an ill sense of foreboding. He put the communicator back and turned his head aside to see Yan Junxun and Shi Shanyan going down the stairs. “… and give Junxun some time off too.”
Volume 1 (Nemesis’s breakfast) ends here.
With regard to Hunt, I never thought of it as a criminal investigative novel as it does not have that strong of a theoretical basis. It’s just a little attempt that merely skimmed the surface of it. The four cases in hunt were repeatedly revised during the preparation of the story outline, but the final presented result is still very different from what was imagined. I wanted to give each murderer time in the spotlight; I don’t wish for them to hide behind complex and intricate messages. This was the basis for working out the plot in Hunt the novel. I wanted to write like this right from the start. It’s fine if there’s no air of mystery to them. I don’t need them to remain mysterious; I want them to stand before the camera.
The background of the world and the cases mutually make up the other. In my opinion, they are indispensable.
The next three volumes might all be written in this tone. Thank you everyone, for your support of the book.