Yan Yin said that the decoration of this house was shabby, but if this was considered shabby, then the Municipal Public Security Bureau would probably be a large grass shed that sprouted from the ground.

The spacious living room had two walls removed, and the floor-to-ceiling glass doors led to a wide garden balcony. The interior design was modern and simple, with a black, white, and gray color scheme. It had a masculine and contemporary feel, with natural marble flooring and brand-new luxury furniture sets. At first glance, it would make people think they had entered a sample room of a real estate developer—beautiful, expensive, and devoid of any vitality.

Now, in the silent confrontation in the living room, the last traces of air turned into piercing ice shards.

“What do you want to hear from ‘Captain Jiang’?” Jiang Ting said slowly. “Tell me, and I’ll tell you.”

Yan Yin sneered, leaned back, and unabashedly scrutinized him. “Don’t get me wrong. I have long since let go of any grudges from back then. Whether you’re the high and mighty Captain Jiang or the undercover Lu Chengjiang, neither of you has much impact on me. It’s not like I’m deliberately trying to harm you to satisfy some perverse psychological desire.”

“But, you spent three years lying in the hospital without any incidents. As soon as you were discharged, a new type of drug started circulating in Jianning City. The method of using drugs disguised as smart pills to seduce wealthy families’ children into taking drugs had been seen in Gongzhou for years, but that time you protected Hu Weisheng. What is the truth?”

Jiang Ting calmly said, “He bribed me. Are you satisfied with that?”

“Don’t bullshit me,” Yan Yin waved his hand. “Could that punk Hu Weisheng afford to get involved in ‘retail’ drug dealing? If you could sign your name on the attempted rape case file, then the Hu family must have a bigger web of interests behind them!”

Jiang Ting nonchalantly said, “So, you think that the spider that spun that web might be me?”

Yan Yin was momentarily speechless.

Jiang Ting said, “Look, you don’t believe me when I say I was bribed, and you don’t believe me when I say I was the mastermind. Whatever you think inside, the truth is what it is. You should trust yourself.”

Jiang Ting seemed naturally inclined to not bother controlling his facial muscles. He always maintained a completely relaxed and distant demeanor, which effortlessly deflected Yan Yin’s sharp remarks.

Yan Yin stared at him and realized that the other party was truly flawless. He suddenly remembered the day when he went to the KTV for a site visit, encountered Jiang Ting witnessing the car accident on the way, and stood in a daze in the middle of the intersection. Looking back now, there was only one moment when Jiang Ting had a flaw, an opening to exploit.

“…,” Yan Yin lightly tapped the edge of the cup with his fingers, pondering something. Soon, he spoke up, “The anti-drug operation in Gongzhou failed, and the official explanation was due to your command mistakes, and the internal network also confirmed that you were dead. Now that you’re still alive, you’re, so to speak, a fugitive on standby. Whether or not to report you to Gongzhou is just a thought away. If you continue to be uncooperative with me, aren’t you afraid that I might get angry and inform Gongzhou to arrest you?”

His casual tone seemed like a joke, but the last few words carried a chilling ruthlessness. However, Jiang Ting seemed oblivious to it and calmly responded, “If I were to be arrested, I would die soon.”

“Oh?”

“If I die, the 502 case will soon become just another theft, extortion, or counterfeit medicine case, just like it did back then. And you will have no chance of reopening the case because Hu Weisheng won’t have the good luck of spending three years in prison this time. He will die in the detention center before the trial.”

Yan Yin asked, “Are you threatening me?”

But Jiang Ting counter-questioned, “Have you ever peeled an onion?”

The two locked eyes for a moment. Yan Yin crossed his arms and leaned back against the chair, arrogantly saying, “No, I’m a man. I don’t go into the kitchen.”

Jiang Ting chuckled, “Onions make people tearful and bitter, but you have to peel layer by layer to get to the core. Instead of pressing me for the so-called truth, it would be better to solve the current case first.”

Yan Yin’s face grew serious, his gaze flickering slightly.

Outside the window, the sky was gradually darkening, and the city lights were just coming on. From the 18th-floor balcony, the long lines of car lights on the elevated bridge in the distance converged into a torrent, rushing towards all corners of the vast metropolis.

And above the heads of the countless beings, the neon lights in the city’s night sky reflected on the glass windows of thousands of households, outlining Yan Yin’s handsome and firm profile through the dimly lit living room.

In the quiet space, only the rise and fall of their breathing could be heard. Yan Yin finally spoke slowly, “Who were the people chasing you today? Do you have any idea?”

Jiang Ting said, “There are many people who want to kill me, but I can’t figure out who would send such a second-rate assassin.”

“And the person who killed the assassin halfway in an SUV, what about them?”

Jiang Ting remained silent for a long time before saying, “Hard to say.”

With a click, Yan Yin turned on the light, and the warm yellow light evenly filled the spacious room. Jiang Ting crossed his arms and leaned on the large black leather sofa, looking unusually slender and thin. His face, neck, and exposed hands were chillingly cold.

“So, as you said, before we solve the case, you’ll have to endure the hardship of working three shifts a day with your delicate and precious self,” Yan Yin pointed to the direction of the guest bedroom and smiled. “Yang Mei’s KTV is crowded and noisy, and the environment is not good. It’s not suitable for recuperation. Since we might have to return to the bureau for overtime later in the middle of the night, let’s just make do and spend the night at my place.”

Yan Yin’s guest bedroom had an ensuite bathroom, and there was a scent of a brand-new house that had never been lived in before in the air. The pillows, bedding, and toiletries were all in place. On the opposite side of the bed was a whole wall-mounted TV, but Jiang Ting didn’t feel like watching TV. After following Yan Yin’s bustling around all day, he simply washed up and went straight to bed.

Yan Yin sat on the edge of the bed in the master bedroom next door, opened the floor-to-ceiling window, and lit a cigarette.

Jiang Ting’s words, apart from the part where he avoided the main point, revealed quite a bit of information—at least the web of interests behind Hu Weisheng was related to drug manufacturing, and Jiang Ting himself should not be lying about the danger he faced in this whirlpool.

But as for the other implications he hinted at, how much was true and how much was false?

His suspicion of Jiang Ting was undisguised, while Jiang Ting’s guard against him was even deeper and more concealed, as if he were someone who had once been trapped and, even though he had escaped, remained on high alert as if everything were a potential threat.

The sound of running water abruptly stopped next door, followed by a click—the door to the guest bedroom’s bathroom opened. In the dead silence of the night, every sound was particularly pronounced. Yan Yin could even imagine Jiang Ting stepping barefoot on the carpet, turning off the lights, and carefully getting into bed.

Yan Yin extinguished his cigarette, brushed his teeth, and tried to sleep, but his mind was filled with various scattered thoughts. After tossing and turning for a while, he finally got up and went to the living room to fetch the book “Red Book” that Jiang Ting had left on the coffee table. He turned on the bedside lamp, thinking that after reading it, he would also show off in front of Jiang Ting.

Three minutes later, the book was opened and flipped over, resting by his side. The deputy captain of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Municipal Bureau had already fallen into a deep sleep.

The sound of a ringing phone suddenly broke the silence, startling Yan Yin as if a high-voltage wire flashing with 20,000 volts had dropped from the sky. He hurriedly answered the phone in a flustered manner, “Hello, hello, hello?”

“What are you up to, Old Yan?” Qin Chuan’s teasing voice came from the other end. “The sun has already risen, and you’re still fooling around on some beauty’s bed?”

Yan Yin rubbed his eyes and glanced at the alarm clock. It was 5:50 in the early morning, and he couldn’t help but reply with irritation, “You know this? Maria Ozawa and Yui Hatano were just banging on my door.”

“Oh, the two old teachers must be working hard to exchange East Asian traditional culture. Didn’t you give them a proper reception?”

Yan Yin looked down and said, “If you didn’t make this damn call, I would’ve already given them a reception!”

Qin Chuan burst into laughter and said, “Alright! After the case is closed, I’ll treat you to a live performance by Yui Hatano. I promise to deliver. Hurry up and finish your business and come to the team. The forensic and trace analysis teams worked all night, and they finally found a breakthrough. Guo Li Zheng is lying in the meeting room, humming.”

Yan Yin asked suspiciously, “What breakthrough?”

With a bang, the door to the guest bedroom was pushed open, and Yan Yin swiftly entered, flicking on the light. “Wake up quickly! The bureau just called—”

In that instant, Jiang Ting, who had been in a deep sleep, suddenly jolted awake and locked eyes with Yan Yin, who had burst into the room.

“… What’s wrong with you?” Yan Yin was taken aback. “Are you sick? Your complexion is so terrible.”

In the light, Jiang Ting, wrapped in his clothes and a blanket, had a face even paler than the pillow. Cold sweat seeped through his black hair, and his eyes gleamed as if soaked in water. His lips were slightly parted as he gasped for breath.

“…”

The two stared at each other for a moment, and Jiang Ting finally exhaled hoarsely, forcing himself to relax. “… Yan Captain, aren’t you afraid that I, as a patient, will be scared away, turning this house into a haunted house?”

His condition was off, as if he were concealing some sort of nightmare or reflex. But Yan Yin didn’t see through this deliberate act, and somehow the scene in front of him made him feel a bit uneasy. He quickly averted his gaze and coughed, “Stop talking nonsense. Are you a little girl? You’re still wearing clothes when you sleep at night. Are you afraid I’ll come in and molest you?”

Jiang Ting’s gaze slowly lowered from Yan Yin’s face, stopping at a certain spot, and he coldly said, “You’re about the same.”

Yan Yin lowered his head and hurriedly covered himself, saying, “What’s wrong with you? Where are you always looking?”

Jiang Ting ignored him.

“Get up quickly and stop dawdling. The bureau just called. They matched the DNA of that dead ghost on the highway with a former convict nicknamed Fan Si. It’s basically confirmed that he’s a professional hitman who takes money to kill. At the same time, a major clue was found on him.”

Jiang Ting didn’t even lift his eyelids. “Oh?”

“Medicine, substance, residue,” Yan Yin emphasized each word. “There was half a crushed pill in his pants pocket, and its chemical composition matches completely with the victim Feng Yuguang’s body. It’s a new type of drug that Jianning City has never seen before.”

Thirty minutes later, at the Criminal Investigation Division of the Municipal Bureau, Jiang Ting wore a haze mask and followed behind Yan Yin into the empty elevator.

Ding—the elevator door slowly closed, and Jiang Ting lowered his head to avoid the surveillance camera. In a low voice, he asked, “Why do I have to follow you all the time?”

Yan Yin turned his head and smiled at him, his eyes filled with an exaggerated tenderness. “To protect you.”

“…”

Between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., the office building was probably the least crowded. Colleagues who had stayed up all night were having breakfast, and those on the morning shift hadn’t arrived yet. Yan Yin was going to the meeting room to meet Guo, and he had already made arrangements for Jiang Ting’s safety—letting him wait in the suite inside the deputy director’s office.

“I’ll close the door now. You can go outside and use the restroom or something. No one can come in from outside. Remember, don’t wander around. I’ll come find you with the latest updates on the case.”

Jiang Ting lazily leaned on the sofa, lacking energy, looking weary.

Just as Yan Yin was about to close the door, he suddenly leaned in again. “If someone recognizes you and asks, say that you’re a witness I brought in for questioning. Tell them to come find me. Do you understand?”

Jiang Ting waved his hand, making a gesture with his palm facing inward and the back of his hand facing outward.

Yan Yin suddenly remembered that five years ago, at the celebration banquet, he had been dismissed by Jiang Ting with the exact same gesture. However, times had changed, and their roles had reversed. Recalling this detail now subtly stimulated his psyche. Yan Yin couldn’t control the corner of his mouth, which slightly curled up.

But he didn’t say anything. With this peculiar smile, he politely nodded and closed the door.

·

“Fan Si, real name Fan Zhengyuan, from Jianning’s Nancheng Jianxin Village. He was imprisoned for extortion and blackmail, and after his release, he was unemployed and made a living by overseeing underground gambling dens. This person has been in several drug rehabilitation centers before. During his time in prison, he probably kicked the habit by force, but from the blood test results, it’s certain that he relapsed after his release.”

Qin Chuan flipped through the images frame by frame on the large screen and gestured for everyone to look at the case materials in front of them. “During the autopsy, the forensic examiner found crushed red capsules in the victim’s pants pocket, which can be basically confirmed to have the same composition as the drugs ingested by the victim, Feng Yuguang.”

The conference room was filled with smoke early in the morning. Deputy Director Wei rubbed his red eyes due to lack of sleep and wearily asked, “So, what are the current inferences?”

Qin Chuan glanced at Yan Yin, who was attentively reading the autopsy report while holding a Zhonghua cigarette. He showed no signs of speaking up.

“Our main inference at the moment is,” Qin Chuan pushed his gold-rimmed glasses and calmly said, “Fan Si was a drug user, most likely involved in trafficking as well, and had control over key sources of these new drugs. After the 502 case occurred, the killer knew that this new type of drug had come under police scrutiny. So, under the guise of providing an escape route, he killed Fan Si to eliminate any loose ends.”

Qin Chuan paused and said, “Based on this inference, our current focus of investigation should be on the suppliers and buyers related to Fan Si, as well as delving deeper into his relationship with Hu Weisheng.”

Deputy Director Wei pondered for a moment and didn’t answer immediately. Instead, he changed the topic:

“Yan Yin, what do you think?”

Yan Yin stroked his chin in front of the piercing gazes of his colleagues. After a while, he suddenly said, “… Fan Si used hard drugs, ‘Third Type’ and ‘Fourth Type,’ right?”

Everyone’s gaze turned to the corner, where Guo Li was propping up his head and snoring. He abruptly woke up and said, “Huh, huh, what? Yes, yes, the records from the drug rehabilitation center and the results of the autopsy match. Diacetylmorphine, nasal inhalation and intravenous injection, absolutely.”

Yan Yin said, “That’s not right.”

Deputy Director Wei furrowed his brow. “What’s wrong?”

Yan Yin closed the autopsy report and leaned back against the chair. “A severe drug addict who injects heroin intravenously is unlikely to go back to smoking synthetic amphetamines, just like someone who’s used to feasting on a grand banquet won’t go back to eating poor-quality food. It goes against normal behavioral habits.”

The corners of his straight, black eyebrows lifted as he surveyed his colleagues in the conference room. “So, the drug residue found in the victim’s pocket, without packaging or sealing, is it really something the victim put in himself?”

·

In the empty office of the Deputy Director, time passed unknowingly, and the hour hand on the wall clock had made nearly three full revolutions.

On the sofa, Jiang Ting opened his eyes, feeling a faint throbbing pain from his stomach.

From the faint sounds coming from outside the door, it seemed that the police officers at the Municipal Bureau had started to arrive for work one after another. However, there was no sign of Yan Yin’s return, and Jiang Ting had no idea why a simple case briefing would take so long. In his opinion, such a straightforward and clear-cut case didn’t even require a meeting.

Feeling uncomfortable, Jiang Ting pressed his stomach and stood up while massaging it. Unexpectedly, before he could even straighten himself, his vision darkened, and the room spun around. He was suddenly overwhelmed by a sudden drop in blood sugar, which forced him to half-kneel on the ground until he regained his senses from the dizziness.

“… " Jiang Ting cursed silently.

He leaned on the sofa and stood up, casually rummaging through the office. Unfortunately, Yan Yin was not someone who had the foresight to stock up on supplies. Apart from files and miscellaneous items, the desk was barren. The only thing that could be considered food was a half-pack of biscuits that had probably been there for a long time.

Jiang Ting squeezed out a piece of soda biscuit with clear tooth marks, and a hint of undisguised disgust finally appeared in his eyes.

Knock, knock, knock…

“Report… Report to Captain Yan,” a timid female voice called out. “The technical team has news, Captain Yan… Oh!”

Jiang Ting had already recognized who this girl was and approached the door, opening it.

“—Ah!”

As expected, it was the intern policewoman from yesterday, who was even more timid than a rabbit. When she saw a strange man open the door, she instinctively covered her mouth and then recognized Jiang Ting.

“… " The girl’s round eyes, already wide open, widened even more, as if her eyeballs were about to pop out. “You, you, you, you, Captain Yan…”

In the empty office in the early morning, with crumpled clothes that had been worn overnight.

If thoughts could materialize, the indescribable images that had filled her mind yesterday had now evolved into a complete action-packed movie.

Jiang Ting narrowed his eyes, looked down at her from a higher position, and asked, “What’s your name?”

“Han, Han, Han… Han Xiaomei!”

“Han Xiaomei.” Jiang Ting took out a fifty-yuan bill from his wallet and placed it in her hand, with a gentle yet unquestionable gesture. “Two steamed buns and a cup of soy milk. Buy them and bring them here.”

“… " Han Xiaomei was dumbfounded for a few seconds. As she saw Jiang Ting about to close the door, she suddenly reacted, “Wait, what about Captain Yan—”

Jiang Ting calmly replied, “Captain Yan told you to go and buy them.”

“… Oh!” Han Xiaomei almost bit her tongue and clumsily turned around and walked away.