Ten minutes later, Yan Yi came back running with two steaming plastic bags on the moonlit stone path.

“What are you doing?” Yan Yi opened the passenger door and gestured to Yang Mei, “Go, sit in the back. The front seat is mine!”

“…,” Yang Mei glanced at Yan Yi’s towering figure, swallowed her grievances, and went to the back seat.

Yan Yi immediately got into the car, placed the plastic bag emitting a rich aroma on Jiang Ting’s lap, and proudly said, “Look, my dear… no, I brought something for you along with the lighter. What do you think?”

Jiang Ting’s eyes couldn’t hide his smile as he opened the plastic bag.

The dim car lights reflected two boxes of sizzling red chili stir-fried pork belly, along with freshly cooked homemade steamed buns.

Originally, they were planning to go to the county town to eat, but now they didn’t need to. The few of them sat in the car with the heater on, eating steamed buns stuffed with pork belly. The windows fogged up.

“Eat a bit more. Don’t worry about the oil since you’re not feeling well,” Yan Yi wiped the corners of Jiang Ting’s mouth, which had gotten a little oily, with a wet tissue. Jiang Ting glanced at the back seat, where he saw Yang Mei devouring her food, and suddenly leaned over to quickly plant a kiss on the inside of Yan Yi’s sturdy wrist.

It was just a brief touch of lips against skin, but Yan Yi’s heart suddenly felt a tingling sensation as if countless tiny electric currents were enveloping and bursting like fireworks. He couldn’t help but reach for Jiang Ting’s shirt collar.

“What are you two doing?” Yang Mei raised her head from the back seat, immediately alert and suspicious.

Yan Yi paused, calmly explained, “Giving you a live demonstration. Look, when looking for a boyfriend, you should find someone who is considerate, mature, and knows how to take care of others, just like me. Understand? Learn a thing or two.”

“…,” Yang Mei gritted her teeth, but eating one’s words is difficult. She thought to herself, I’ll endure it. She continued to eat with her head down.

Yan Yi, feeling dissatisfied, continued to tease her in a playful manner, sweetly advising Jiang Ting, “Have a couple more pieces of meat. Don’t worry about getting fat. You’re too skinny and should consume more animal protein. Besides, we have plenty in this box. Come on, open your mouth, ah—”

Yang Mei heard the words “plenty of meat” and suddenly raised her head again, a revelation hitting her like a thunderbolt.

“Wait a minute, why is there so much meat in your box? Shouldn’t there be this much meat in mine? Why is mine mostly peppers?!”

Jiang Ting: “…”

Yang Mei: “…”

Yan Yi hurriedly pushed her back to the back seat, calmly explaining, “It’s a live demonstration for you, my dear. You’re a grown woman now, still unmarried. It’s important to maintain your figure. Your father is actually thinking about your weight…”

Meimei rejected her father’s well-meaning intentions and expressed that she didn’t care about her weight. With Jiang Ting turning a blind eye, she grabbed a few more pieces of pork belly with her chopsticks and greedily retreated to the back seat, salivating. Yan Yi sighed repeatedly, lamenting that his eldest daughter would never get married and would probably end up in his hands. What would he do then?

Yang Mei held the chopsticks in her trembling hand and reassured him not to worry. After all these years, she had gotten used to it. It would be perfect to stick to Jiang Ge for the rest of her life.

… Yan Yi stared at her for a while, then grumbled, “When we get back to Jianning, I’ll find someone to introduce a son-in-law to you!”

Yang Mei, with a smug look on her face, stuffed a steamed bun in her mouth, her cheek puffed up like a hamster. She looked like she was going to explode, then grabbed a tissue and said she needed to use the restroom. She took a flashlight and got out of the back door—Yang Boss always wore high heels everywhere, like an armed female soldier. As soon as she got out of the car, she stumbled and almost fell flat on her face.

“Be careful!” Yan Yi shouted from outside, “A grown woman like you, so lacking in decorum, immediately announcing that you need to use the restroom?!”

Yang Mei, without looking back, coquettishly replied in a loud voice, “Jiang Ge, could you keep an eye out for me?”

Jiang Ting coughed under Yan Yi’s sharp gaze, pretending he hadn’t heard anything, and obediently sat in the driver’s seat.

Yang Mei walked hesitantly into the trees by the dirt road, and the flashlight stopped at a certain spot. Yan Yi was about to criticize her for her bold behavior, when suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the flashlight shaking violently. Immediately after, Yang Mei seemed to suddenly pull up her pants and dart towards a distance, and there was a flurry of footsteps in the woods.

“What’s wrong with her?” Yan Yi’s question was just forming when he heard Yang Mei’s hysterical scream, “Ah ah ah ah ah—someone is peeping!”

… The two of them looked at each other, and Yan Yi suspected, “Is she… doing this on purpose?”

The next moment, Yang Mei’s roaring voice from the sky answered his question, “I’ll kill you, you pervert! Don’t run!”

Yan Yi and Jiang Ting exchanged a glance, then opened the car doors and ran out.

The dark forest was rugged, and not long after running, Yan Yi saw the flashlight flickering ahead. He rushed over in three steps, grabbing the flashlight from Yang Mei. He signaled Jiang Ting to stay with Yang Mei and went after the person.

Jiang Ting quickly glanced at Yang Mei. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Yang Mei, flushed and panting, said urgently, “I heard someone over there as soon as I squatted down. It sounded like someone stepping on branches and walking away. I immediately chased after them. Definitely a peeping tom. Hoo, hoo, scared the hell out of me…”

Jiang Ting noticed that her first reaction to a peeping incident was not to call for help, but to chase after the person. She was quite unique. It’s hard to say who was more frightened, her or the peeping tom…

“Don’t run!” Yan Yi roared, “Stop!”

The flashlight bobbed as it shone, and the prey in front hurriedly fled. Only their black hooded shirt and pants could be seen. Somehow, Yan Yi felt a bit familiar with that figure, especially the running posture, which inexplicably reminded him of a similar scene not long ago—the night before they went from Jianning to Gongzhou, downstairs in the residential area…

That tracker!

He actually followed them all the way here?!

“Don’t run!” Yan Yi had a sudden realization and cursed, “I recognize you! It’s you!”

Sure enough, as soon as the words fell, the tracker showed a clear reaction. His steps faltered and he almost tripped over the bushes.

Yan Yi pounced forward, embracing the tracker. In the darkness, he felt the world spinning, and the two of them tumbled down the hillside, with countless stones and branches hitting Yan Yi’s eyes, causing him to see stars.

Bang—seconds later, they landed with a loud thud. Before Yan Yi could recover from his dizziness, he felt a heavy blow to his abdomen. The tracker kicked him away and tried to run!

“You son of a b*tch!” Yan Yi erupted in anger, extending his leg and tripping the person, causing them to faceplant into the mud. He pounced on them, pinning them down, and delivered several punches like Lu Tixia pounding Zhang Guanxi. He shouted furiously, “Dare to ambush your daddy! Dare to ambush your daddy!!”

“…,” the person covered their face, struggling and making muffled sounds.

“Yan Yi!” Jiang Ting arrived, staggering down the hillside, and asked, “Are you okay?”

Yan Yi didn’t look back. “I’m fine. I’ve caught this bastard. Be careful and don’t fall!” He then landed a heavy punch on the tracker’s temple, producing a faint sound of flesh being compressed. He then grabbed the person’s collar and said harshly, “You son of a b*tch, you were the one who followed me that day, right? And it was also you downstairs in my residential area?!”

Afraid that he would end up killing someone, Jiang Ting quickly stepped forward to intervene. “Alright, that’s enough. What about the flashlight?”

Yan Yi reached around and groped the area, then grabbed the flashlight and twisted it on.

By this time, the tracker had been beaten into submission, unable to fight back. He could only cover his face and groan on the ground. When faced with the sudden beam of the flashlight shining in his face, he moaned and turned his head, uttering a few indistinct curses.

“You…,” Yan Yi pulled away the person’s hand covering their face and, upon seeing the bruised and swollen face, was suddenly stunned, unable to believe it. “…Fang Zhenghong?!”

As if lightning had struck out of a clear sky, Yan Yi was struck dumb, and even Jiang Ting was momentarily stunned.

On a rural hillside hundreds of kilometers away from Jianning, the deputy head of the criminal investigation division berated and beat the head of the antidrug division. The former head of Gongzhou’s division stood by in astonishment. The scene suddenly became particularly absurd.

“%#&^$…,” Fang Zhenghong didn’t know if he was raging, embarrassed, or simply too weak to speak. He muttered words that only he could understand, clenching his teeth and widening his eyes, “It’s me, so what?! It was your own guilty conscience—”

Suddenly, it was as if he had been muted. He vanished into silence.

Yan Yi wanted to stop him, but it was already too late.

Fang Zhenghong stared fixedly at Jiang Ting, his face turning red, his mouth opening and closing in a bewildered and comical expression. He opened and closed his mouth repeatedly, finally uttering a few words, “You… you’re Jiang Ting?!”

Jiang Ting raised an eyebrow and met Yan Yi’s gaze.

“You, you,” Fang Zhenghong gasped anxiously, his words incoherent, his chest heaving like a bellows, “You’re still alive?!”

In the morning, at the county guesthouse.

The sky was just beginning to brighten. Outside the window, the chirping of birds filled the air. The calls of vendors selling breakfast mixed with the ringing of electric bikes and bicycles, creating a lively and vibrant atmosphere in the cold early winter breeze as they weaved through the streets and alleys.

Yang Mei finished grooming and sat on the edge of the bed, applying eyeliner while squinting and contorting her mouth. She started mumbling for the eighteenth time since last night:

“You were a decent division leader. Why did you develop the habit of peeping at women in the bathroom?!”

Fang Zhenghong: “…”

Fang Zhenghong was tied to the bedside of the twin room, with Yang Mei’s leather gloves stuffed in his mouth. Judging from the contorted movements of his face, he probably wanted to spit out the gloves and angrily deny it.

“He didn’t,” the room’s door was pushed open, and Yan Yi entered with several bags of steaming hot breakfast, followed by Jiang Ting. “He was targeting me.”

Youtiao, meat buns, egg sausage pancake, soy milk… Yang Mei happily picked up a bag of particularly rich and fragrant pancake. Just as she was about to reach for it, Yan Yi suddenly lifted the plastic bag above his head and teased, “Do you want to eat? Call me daddy!”

Yang Mei stood on tiptoes, glaring at him, then her eyes rolled and she forced out a sweet and chilling smile, “Daddy is too old. How can I address the youthful Deputy Division Leader Yan? It should be ‘brother,’ right?”

Yan Yi was satisfied with the address of “brother.” Just as he was about to say something, Yang Mei suddenly exclaimed, “Isn’t it, Qing—brother—brother?”

“…,” Yan Yi’s face revealed an expression that was about to burst out laughing. He hurriedly handed the egg sausage pancake to Yang Mei, turned around, and rolled his eyes dramatically.

Yang Mei happily twisted her body.

Ever since Jiang Ting entered the room, Fang Zhenghong had been unable to stop scrutinizing him. Jiang Ting gave him a casual glance, then sat down and slowly ate a meat bun.

“How is it? Is it delicious?” Yan Yi shook a bag of breakfast and looked at Fang Zhenghong obliquely. “If you want to eat, nod your head.”

Fang Zhenghong immediately hmphed and turned his head forcefully.

Yang Mei said with emphasis, “Oh, still being stubborn. You were a good division leader, lurking in the woods in the middle of the night. Even if it’s not for peeping at me in the bathroom but for Yan Yi, it’s still wrong to spy on Deputy Division Leader Yan while he’s in the bathroom, right? Isn’t that what everyone thinks?”

Judging from Fang Zhenghong’s bulging eyes, he might spit blood soon.

“Alright, stop teasing him. What if he has a heart attack?” Yan Yi sat down opposite Fang Zhenghong, stared at him with bloodshot eyes and bulging veins, lost in thought.

Suddenly, he said, “Your suspicion hasn’t been cleared. According to regulations, you should be under restraint and not allowed to leave Jianning, right?”

Fang Zhenghong remained expressionless.

“Lv Bureau didn’t restrain you. Why?”

Fang Zhenghong still didn’t say anything.

Yan Yi slowed down his tone. “Because he is convinced of your innocence. Or should I say, are you both accomplices?”

“#¥%*&(…”

As expected, as soon as the words fell, Fang Zhenghong immediately burst into a hoarse roar. Yan Yi ripped off the gloves, and his furious roar resounded. However, the content of the roar surprised everyone:

“Don’t pretend! You two are the ones on the same side!”

Yan Yi was stunned.

Jiang Ting also froze.

After a brief silence, Yan Yi immediately questioned, “What did you say?”

Fang Zhenghong’s pale face showed a sickly flush. It was hard to imagine how someone like him, notorious for his illness, had been able to track Yan Yi for such a long time and make the arduous journey across provinces and cities, hundreds of kilometers to reach Yuejia Village.

What kind of substantial benefits could tempt him to do so?

Narrowing his sharp eyes, Yan Yi’s gaze seemed to penetrate Fang Zhenghong’s flushed face and pierce into his bones. The suffocating deadlock lasted for several minutes before he slowly said, “The sentence for stealing a police rifle starts at ten years. You should understand that, Captain Fang.”

Fang Zhenghong’s tone was icy. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t know? Then let me tell you. Three years ago, after the explosion at the 1009 Plastic Factory, Gongzhou established a special investigation team. On January 10th, the action team led by Yue Guangping arrived at the scene to rescue Division Leader Jiang and the undercover agent ‘Rivet.’ After the operation, Yue Guangping discovered that his backup gun was missing. However, the missing police rifle couldn’t be found anywhere in Gongzhou. Lv Bureau told me that the rescue was a joint operation between Gongzhou and Jianning, and you were the team leader from Jianning.”

Fang Zhenghong opened his mouth.

“Yue Guangping, as the deputy mayor, is not someone anyone can get close to. As the team leader, you not only had the opportunity to be in close contact with him but also, because of your identity as the Jianning leader, you wouldn’t arouse Yue Guangping’s suspicion after the gun went missing. With favorable timing, location, and personal factors all in place, and even a motive, shouldn’t you explain it to us?”

Fang Zhenghong angrily retorted, “Nonsense! Why would I—”

“Because three years later, this gun appeared at the scene of a police ambush in Jiangyang County,” Yan Yi interrupted him briskly and sharply, saying, “The shooter followed and tracked the police car and used the bullet fired from this gun to shoot me.”

Fang Zhenghong felt like a strangled rooster.

After a while, he squeezed out a sentence, “I was clearly at the municipal bureau on the day you were shot…”

“No one said the shooter was you, but on the night when the shooter was silenced, you, who should have been on duty, went missing,” Yan Yi distanced himself a bit and a cold, fierce, and intimidating smile appeared at the corner of his mouth, like an eagle hovering high above, fixated on its prey below:

“Now, can you explain the long-term tracking and trailing of me, Captain Fang?”

Fang Zhenghong’s chest rapidly rose and fell, rose and fell, repeating for about ten times. Finally, his muddled thoughts found a thread, and he suddenly turned to Jiang Ting, “Shouldn’t you explain too?”

Jiang Ting raised his eyes.

“Your appearance here with Yan Yi, does it mean that you’re also involved with the drug traffickers?!”

Anyone with a bit of criminal investigation logical thinking would immediately find this statement extremely strange. In the room, except for the clueless Yang Mei, the gazes of Jiang Ting and Yan Yi underwent subtle changes.

—It was as if he knew all along that Jiang Ting was not “involved with the drug traffickers.”

Jiang Ting contemplated for a moment and replied slowly, “No, I’m just a family member accompanying him.”

Fang Zhenghong: “?”

Just as Jiang Ting was about to say something, his phone rang suddenly.

“Qi.” He looked at the caller ID, briefly informed Yan Yi, and then got up to answer the call, “What’s wrong?”

From the other end of the phone came Qi Sihao’s panicked breathing and the distinct sound of car indicator lights. He seemed extremely agitated, unable to find the right words, but even at such a critical moment, he still retained the instinct to immediately contact his former leader. It’s not hard to imagine the magnitude of the psychological shadow that Jiang Ting had left on him years ago.

A silence fell over the hotel room. After waiting for several seconds, the voices suddenly heard his sharp voice, which had changed in pitch, “Someone—someone—”

Jiang Ting frowned.

“—Someone is trying to kill me!”