Yan Yin had just stepped out of the interrogation room when the detectives waiting outside immediately began their assigned actions. “Deputy Yan,” an intern detective from the Technical Investigation Department caught up and looked anxious, “Director Huang compared the activity radius of Chi Rui and Wang Le and found that their movements overlapped near Songxinqiao. There are three suspicious processing mold factories there. Here are the specific geographical details.” Yan Yin took a look and indeed saw the names, locations, and internal structure diagrams of the three factories on the list. “Songxinqiao,” Yan Yin repeated thoughtfully. “Alright, thank Director Huang for me.” He handed the list to a detective, jabbing his index finger on the paper and giving orders, “Dispatch the advance team to these three locations, turn off sirens within a ten-kilometer radius, and await further instructions. Go now!” The detective hurried off. Yan Yin straightened his collar, tightened his Bluetooth earpiece, and took a deep breath. Just then, the door was knocked twice, followed by Ma Xiang’s voice, “Yan Ge, are you in there? Deputy Qin wants us to bring Diao Yong to see you!” “Let’s get started, Lao Gao,” Yan Yin whispered into the earpiece. Inside the interrogation room, Gao Panqing made a gesture of approval from afar. Ding Jiawang couldn’t see what was happening outside the one-way glass and couldn’t help but feel confused. The door clicked, and Ma Xiang and several police officers brought Diao Yong in, pushing open the door. Yan Yin had his back turned to them, not even bothering to turn his head, and loudly shouted towards the one-way glass of the interrogation room, “Make Ding confess more quickly. Besides Diao Yong, who are the other accomplices? Chi Rui? Write down what Chi Rui is involved in! And what’s the name of the driver wearing gloves in the surveillance footage, the one Ding Jiawang said is an internal electrician at the chemical plant?” Diao Yong: “?!” Caught off guard, Diao Yong froze upon hearing the names of his accomplices. “Yan Ge,” Ma Xiang cautiously said, “Deputy Qin asked us to bring him over. Here, he’s here.” “His name is Wang Le, right? Okay, I’ll immediately have someone investigate the electrician named Wang Le at the chemical plant.” Yan Yin turned his head and glanced at Diao Yong impatiently, asking Ma Xiang, “Why did you bring him here? Ding Jiawang has already started confessing! Give him a few more minutes, and he’ll spill everything from wetting the bed at eight years old!” “…!” Diao Yong looked at Ding Jiawang in the interrogation room, his face suddenly changing color. “Hey, Yan Ge,” Ma Xiang playfully said, “Deputy Qin is just being cautious. If Ding keeps confessing without leaving any loose ends, what would we do? The more people, the more strength we have, right?” But Yan Yin wasn’t joking with him. “When Deputy Qin tells you to do something, you do it. Don’t you know the rules of our Criminal Investigation Division? There’s only one chance to voluntarily cooperate with the police investigation in exchange for a reduced sentence. Not everyone gets that opportunity. Do you think the Prosecutor’s Office is my family’s business?” “Take him back, take him back!” Yan Yin said without distinguishing right from wrong, waving his hand at Diao Yong, “He has nothing to do with this. Take him back and keep him detained, waiting to be transferred to the prosecutor’s office!” Ma Xiang had no choice, sighed, and turned back, saying, “Alright, guys, let’s make another trip…” “No!” Diao Yong called out in desperation. “Wait, wait!” “What kind of trick are you guys playing?” Ding Jiawang stared at the middle-aged police officer named Gao in front of him. Gao Panqing listened to the commotion coming through his earpiece as if unaffected, his face displaying an expression of poker-faced professionalism. “So your accomplices include Chi Rui, who is involved in illegal gun production, and the chemical plant electrician Wang Le. Besides you, there are other drug manufacturing experts, right? Where is the hidden base in Wuhai Industrial Zone?” Gao Panqing said firmly. Ding Jiawang gritted his teeth. “I don’t know anything about drug manufacturing experts! I don’t know anything about hidden bases either! Are the police even going to find my daughter?!” “Gao Ge, did you hear that? He just confessed that the drug manufacturing base is in Wuhai Industrial Zone…” Gao Panqing continued. Outside the interrogation room. “Wuhai Industrial Zone?” Yan Yin repeated loudly into the microphone. “Wuhai District, got it. Tell Ding Jiawang to be more thorough with his confession. What’s the specific location?” Diao Yong looked at Ding Jiawang with uncertainty, feeling at a loss. “The packaging and processing mold factory near Songxinqiao, right? Okay, I’ll have someone check it out.” Yan Yin gestured to the detective next to him, who immediately understood and hurriedly ran out. “Oh, Lao Gao, tell Ding Jiawang: as long as we successfully rescue the hostage, the extent of his involvement in this criminal gang and the number of years he’ll be sentenced by the court, the police will do their best to help him. Alright, I won’t say much more for now. They’ve brought Diao Yong to me. He really gives me a headache.” Yan Yin turned around again, enveloped in anger, seemingly itching to kick Diao Yong out the door.

“Why is this guy with the surname Diao still here! Let me tell you, he’s just a security guard. He doesn’t know anything! Let him go back and prepare to rot in prison!” Ma Xiang and a few others responded, pushing Diao Yong to leave. However, Diao Yong was extremely frightened and instinctively blurted out, “Wait, officers, wait!” while desperately holding onto the door frame. Did Ding Jiawang really say everything? How much does he need to confess? Is the sentence reduction real? Do the police really know everything or are they just pretending to coerce my confession? In a blink of an eye, countless thoughts raced through Diao Yong’s mind, but in reality, all he could do was grip the door frame tightly and strain his neck towards the direction of the interrogation room. —What he didn’t know was that every single one of his reactions was observed by Yan Yin, not a single change in his mindset went unnoticed. Everyone could see that his defense line was on the verge of collapsing. All it took was one final straw to breach the dam completely. “Make Ding provide a detailed account of all the details related to Hu Weisheng—how they know each other, specific drug trafficking channels, and any other subordinates besides Sanchunhua,” Yan Yin said into the microphone. “Oh, and especially focus on that blue-colored new type of drug. Make Ding Jiawang emphasize it!” To Diao Yong, it felt like a thunderclap right by his ear, and his whole being went blank. Then, the scene inside the interrogation room plunged him into an icy abyss during the early summer— Gao Panqing took out a transparent plastic sealed bag from the evidence box and threw it in front of Ding Jiawang. Inside the bag was a shimmering blue drug powder. The police even had this! They really know everything! “…Is this cupric hydroxide?” Ding Jiawang asked warily. Gao Panqing smiled faintly. “I’ll talk! I’ll talk! Let me speak!” Outside the interrogation room, Diao Yong wailed, his face covered in rolling sweat, giving him a ferocious expression. “Ding, he doesn’t know anything. Lao Hu is the one I have the closest relationship with! Officers, let me speak!” The breath that had been held in everyone’s throats was released instantly. Ma Xiang’s expression of relief was almost impossible to hide. Thankfully, he reacted quickly and hid his face in his moist palms. “…What else do you want to say?” Yan Yin turned around, furrowing his brows and staring coldly at Diao Yong. “You, a security guard, think you can compare to Ding Jiawang? How much could you possibly know?” Diao Yong’s whole body was about to collapse. He didn’t notice when a few police officers had supported him to the table, and with a click, handcuffed him to the armrest of the chair. “Ding, the guy with the surname Ding, he’s not honest. Don’t trust him. Don’t grant him a sentence reduction,” Diao Yong said in a hurried, trembling voice, afraid of confessing too slowly. “There are three processing factories near Songxinqiao. After you go there, you won’t be able to figure out which one it is. He deliberately wants to delay the police’s time! I, I’ll tell you everything. Songxinqiao, the area near Dongyuan Road. The warehouse there, go through the back entrance. Inside, there’s a hardware mold and processing packaging company called Jiaxing. That’s it!” Deep within Yan Yin’s tightly constricted pupils, cold light flickered, firmly fixated on Diao Yong’s anxious face. The small room fell silent, with no one making a sound. Apart from Diao Yong’s heavy breathing, even the air seemed frozen. “…” More than ten seconds passed, and Yan Yin slowly raised his hand, making a commanding gesture to Ma Xiang. Ma Xiang quickly rushed out of the room and picked up a walkie-talkie in the corridor. “Hello, hello, command center, command center. Notify the advance reconnaissance team to change course. The hostage is at the back door of the warehouse in the intersection of Songxinqiao and Dongyuan Road, Jiaxing Hardware Mold and Processing Company! Dispatch Team One, riot police, follow up!” · “Lao Gao, take Ding Jiawang back,” Yan Yin said slowly, raising his hand to turn off the microphone and pulling a chair to sit across from Diao Yong. Diao Yong completely lost his previous arrogance and toughness. Tears and snot streamed down his face, looking as miserable as a stray dog. “I’m willing to cooperate. I’ll say everything. That guy with the surname Ding is not worth a sentence reduction. I have an elderly parent and young children. I’m willing to start anew…” Yan Yin asked, “Hu Weisheng is the closest to you?” Diao Yong nodded hurriedly. “Why?” “Lao Hu said that Ding’s mind is unclear and unreliable when it comes to studying that drug. Coincidentally, we both enjoy a drink or two. We got to talking after a few drinks, and then…” “So you really wanted to replicate the new type of drug?” Yan Yin interrupted. Diao Yong, having given up all hope, admitted with a relieved sniffle, “Yes, but it was Ding Jiawang’s idea. He wanted to make money but didn’t have the ability. Whose fault is it if he got caught?” Yan Yin toyed with his phone, opened WeChat, and typed a few words. He seemed to want to send a message but hesitated for a moment before deleting it. “Ding Jiawang just confessed that the new type of drug can be absorbed through skin contact, and even the tiniest bit can cause addiction,” Yan Yin looked up and asked, “Is that true?”

Diao Yong nodded incessantly, “Yes, yes…” “How do you know?” “Huh?” “How do you know its effects? Have you sold it before?” Diao Yong wanted to slap his thigh, but as his hand moved, the metallic chains clinked loudly. “Oh no, how is that possible? Lao Hu only had that one package. Why would we bother researching if we sold it? But Ding, after analyzing the sample, said it should be genuine. And Lao Hu had seen them smuggling this blue powder out of the country when he worked for his boss before—saying that many foreigners dissolve it in water and absorb it through the skin…” Yan Yin struggled to control his voice, “Has this kind of drug already spread overseas?” “Well, you can’t exactly say it’s widespread,” Diao Yong hesitated, “Lao Hu said it’s sold at a high price, only affordable for the wealthy.” Yan Yin forced himself to calm down and realized a previously overlooked question. Hu Weisheng had only recently been released from prison, and that package of drugs should have been obtained either during his second incarceration or even before his first. In other words, the so-called “new type of drug” had actually been circulating in the market for several years, but it hadn’t caught the attention of the police because its “export” wasn’t as noticeable as its domestic distribution. However, if Hu Weisheng had been hiding that package of drugs for years, why hadn’t the “big boss” pursued it? If it was because they hadn’t discovered it, why did two people suddenly appear and snatch it away right after they found the drugs on the rooftop? Although Yan Yin was reluctant to admit it, he knew there were only two possible explanations for this: First, there was an internal informant. Before he went up to the rooftop, he had called Qin Chuan for reinforcements, and Qin Chuan had to report the operation to the municipal bureau and the command center. Afterward, someone on the inside leaked the information. Second, the informant was Jiang Ting. On that night when the lights first came on, with the chilling wind on the rooftop, the life-or-death struggle, the bullet passing by… Countless fragments spun like a vortex, freezing in front of Yan Yin’s eyes, forming an unforgettable image. That was what he saw in an instant when he followed Jiang Ting into the entrance of the building. —Who is that man? Yan Yin wondered. The other person with a gun that night, the one whose face couldn’t be clearly seen, the one who went downstairs with Jiang Ting—just who was he? “Hu Weisheng never mentioned anything about his former boss?” Yan Yin squinted his eyes, saying indifferently. Diao Yong shook his head fearfully, “No, Lao Hu rarely talked about it. I think, judging from his behavior, he might have stolen something and felt guilty. He didn’t even dare to mention his boss’s name.” “He didn’t mention the name, but did he say anything else? Developing a new type of drug, this person shouldn’t be an ordinary role.” “…It’s hard to say. Lao Hu sometimes drinks too much and can’t keep his mouth shut. Who knows if he was just bragging,” Diao Yong hesitated for a moment, then said, “But he often said that the boss is not an ordinary person, very young and has a grand demeanor. He never shows himself, except to his most trusted subordinates—sounds like a big drug lord from a movie.” As someone involved in drug trafficking, even uttering the phrase “big drug lord” sent a shiver down Diao Yong’s spine, as if he had only just realized the terrifying nature of this irreversible path. Yan Yin stared at him coldly, his face calm and devoid of any hint of emotion, making it impossible for Diao Yong to discern his true feelings. “Officer…” Diao Yong stammered. “This new type of drug is so powerful. Did Hu Weisheng or Ding Jiawang ever tell you the main ingredients or chemical formula?” Yan Yin’s expression showed that the answer was most likely no. Given Diao Yong’s education level, even if Ding Jiawang had mentioned it, he wouldn’t have remembered. Yan Yin stood up and gestured for the detective to approach. “It seems that you don’t know much.” “No, wait!” Diao Yong immediately became anxious, the handcuffs rattling as he struggled, “Although I don’t know the ingredients or chemical formula, I know what it was called before! I can tell you everything I know!” During drug transactions, drugs often have many nicknames. For example, diacetylmorphine is also known as white powder, softies, or number four, while methamphetamine is called ice or shabu, etc. Many names are based on the appearance of the drug. According to this principle, the new type of drug in Hu Weisheng’s possession should have been called “Blue Zai” in the underground market, or perhaps something more artistic like “Hell’s Ghost.” It was similar to how heroin was called “Killer Peak” during its peak in the United States. Sure enough, Diao Yong said urgently, “When they smuggled the powder out of the southwest, they called it ‘Blue Gold,’ meaning it was more precious than gold. But Lao Hu said, in the beginning, it was called something else, something like… yes, it was called ‘Ting Yun’!” Yan Yin suddenly froze. “…” Yan Yin stood there motionless for a while. His dark eyes stared at Diao Yong as he asked, “What did you say it was called?”

“Ting Yun.” Diao Yong, fearing that he wouldn’t be heard clearly, deliberately slowed down and said tremblingly, “It is said that the smoke produced by burning this substance is like clouds, and as for ’ting,’ it means lingering.” Meanwhile, in the Wuhai Industrial Zone, at a processing factory. “Turn.” “Go straight.” “What are you looking at? Keep walking!” Chu Ci felt the muzzle pressing against the back of his head, causing him to stagger slightly. He quickly straightened his body and continued walking forward. From the machinery and equipment, this seemed to be a private factory related to mold processing, but the machines had not been used in a long time and were covered in a thin layer of dust. The unmistakable buzzing inside the factory indicated that the air purification system was operating at maximum capacity, but the faint smell of ammonia couldn’t be eliminated. It was a result of the extensive reduction-amination reactions during the synthesis of crystal methamphetamine. Following the force of the gun, Chu Ci walked out of the factory and stopped in an open space. It was already dusk, and the setting sun dyed the opposite rooftop golden-red, making his eyes narrow slightly. Two kidnappers stood not far away, one of them with a fierce expression and a bandage on his forehead—the same bandage Chu Ci recognized as the one left by the kidnapper he had forcibly knocked into the bushes, while the other one standing beside him, wearing glasses, was likely the drug manufacturing technician. “Heaven has a path you won’t take, but hell has no door you won’t break through.” Chi Rui took a drag from his cigarette and sneered, “Gifted student, do you have anything else to say? Say it for us to hear.” Chu Ci had lost his glasses, and his white lab coat was covered in dust and blood, some from the kidnappers, some from himself. The fractured ribs and the tremendous physical exertion from the high fever made it difficult for him to stand, but he still tried to straighten up, enduring the burning pain, and took a deep breath. “…There’s no need for you to do this. Kidnapping doesn’t carry the death penalty, and the situation hasn’t reached the point of no return yet.” Chu Ci swallowed dryly, his gaze meeting the eyes of the two kidnappers in front of him. In a hoarse voice, he said, “As long as I’m alive, even if the police do come knocking, they won’t be able to sentence me to death. At most, twenty years, with ten years off for good behavior. But if I die, the city of Jianning demands the resolution of homicide cases, and the police will search tirelessly, even for the sake of their own salaries. Think about it, why bother?” Chi Rui snorted, then burst into laughter. “You really are a talented student. You know how to talk, hahaha—” Chu Ci raised his head slightly. “But you’ve got it wrong.” Suddenly, Chi Rui’s laughter stopped, and he gritted his teeth menacingly. “Why should we stay in Jianning after committing such a big crime? When the time comes, if we run away, is it more convenient to bring along a live person like you, or a handful of ashes?!” The drug manufacturing technician next to him opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something but stopped himself. Chi Rui took a final drag from his cigarette, flicked the butt to the ground, and forcefully stamped it out with his foot. He gave a distant signal to Wang Le: “Take action!” “…” Chu Ci’s pupils narrowed into a line, feeling the pressure of the muzzle on the back of his head, as if it was forcing him to kneel. —That was the position of an execution-style shooting! The fear of life and death didn’t leave his mind blank. On the contrary, in less than a hundredth of a second, Chu Ci’s brain reached its peak state, thinking faster and clearer than ever before. With a thud, he was forced to kneel down on one knee, and the sound of the safety catch being pulled back came from behind his head. “…**,” Chu Ci suddenly trembled. Wang Le’s index finger paused on the trigger. “That package of drugs can be absorbed through the skin and cause addiction. It doesn’t require plant-based ingredients, indicating that its main component is a new type of ** compound. It’s possible that the methyl group on the morpholine ring has been replaced with something else, significantly reducing the lethality of ** and increasing its addictive properties. As for the counterfeit product synthesized by Engineer Ding, it always fails because he missed a few steps in the experiment, and he couldn’t remove the toxicity of the ** compound itself, so it couldn’t achieve the same effect as the sample in Hu Weisheng’s hand.” As his words landed, Chu Ci closed his eyes. One second, two seconds, ten seconds passed. The gun didn’t go off. Wang Le’s index finger remained on the trigger, looking to his two companions for consultation. The drug manufacturing technician’s eyes lit up, and he held onto Chi Rui, repeatedly gesturing for Wang Le to put down the gun. “What’s going on?” Chi Rui angrily asked, “Didn’t we already discuss this?!” The technician ignored him. “Gifted student, according to your idea, what should we do?” A trip was taken at the critical moment. Chu Ci opened his eyes and finally felt a slight chill on his temples. —That was because they were dampened by cold sweat.

“If you give me some samples and let me use stereoisomers to perform a systematic conformational search, and then study the possible active conformations of ligand-receptor interactions, maybe I can synthesize the exact same thing,” Chu Ci lifted his head, his voice extremely hoarse but sounding resolute, “It just requires some equipment and time.” The technician seemed to ponder for a moment and nodded to Wang Le. “Don’t listen to this kid’s nonsense!” Chi Rui immediately exploded, “If even Old Ding couldn’t do it, how can this little brat do it? Is he some kind of god? I don’t believe it!” The technician impatiently said, “Regardless, we should give it a try…” “He’s just buying time, waiting for the police to catch up! Do you believe that Diao Yong has already fallen into the hands of the police and might have spilled everything? If we don’t take action now, we might end up surrounded by police cars later!” Chi Rui forcefully pushed the technician aside, pressed the bandage on his forehead, and shouted angrily, “Stop talking and act! Kill him!”