“Do you believe him?” Qin Chuan asked with some doubt.

Yan Yin interlocked his fingers rhythmically, then slowly said, “The forensic team is recovering the surveillance footage. If we can find evidence of his absence, then I’ll believe him.”

The deputy office was filled with the mixed scent of overnight instant noodles and cigarettes. Outside the door, voices could be heard as the police officers on the night shift arrived for work.

“But it’s too far-fetched, Old Yan. Feng Yuguang’s department head and advisor both said his grades were terrible. They would be relieved if he could finish his graduation thesis. But Chu Ci claims that Feng Yuguang was determined to pursue a Ph.D. and even wanted to work on a research project. Feng Yuguang spends his days watching TV dramas, playing games, and chasing girls. He’s not the type to be devoted to academia. And if you listen closely to Chu Ci’s testimony, I don’t believe you can’t tell that he’s not telling the whole truth. This kid definitely concealed a lot of things!” Qin Chuan argued, expressing his disbelief.

Yan Yin raised an index finger and shook it in front of Qin Chuan’s nose.

“I have reservations about the first half of your statement, but I strongly agree with the second half.”

“—He did, in fact, hide some things.”

Thirty minutes ago, in the interrogation room…

“He made a bet to pursue a Ph.D.”

“What?”

“He bet that he would definitely be able to pursue a Ph.D.,” Chu Ci said helplessly. “I don’t know what gave him that confidence, maybe it’s because he miraculously passed his end-of-term exams with low scores every time.”

Yan Yin and the detective responsible for recording exchanged a glance, both very surprised. Then Yan Yin turned to Chu Ci and asked, “—How did you two end up discussing this topic?”

“When I entered the room, he was reading a book and had some questions about an experiment he didn’t understand. Our relationship hadn’t deteriorated to the point where we couldn’t even speak, so I explained it to him for about twenty minutes. But there were a few points he just couldn’t grasp, so I told him we would stop there for the day. Those were part of the extracurricular extension and wouldn’t have much impact if he didn’t understand them.” Chu Ci explained.

“Then he became anxious and insisted that I not look down on him, saying that he wasn’t worse than anyone else and that he could definitely pursue a Ph.D.” Chu Ci clarified. “Actually, I didn’t mean to look down on him.”

Yan Yin thought to himself that we all understand. The natural discrimination between top students and underachievers is often something they’re not even aware of. But we underachievers are quite sensitive, aren’t we? However, he didn’t show any reaction on the surface, only asking, “So, you made a bet? What was the stake?”

“A research project. If he really passed and pursued a Ph.D., I would have to work on a research project with him.”

“And if he failed?”

Chu Ci suddenly fell silent, taking several seconds before answering, “He would owe me one yuan.”

Inside and outside the interrogation room, everyone was stunned.

“…” Yan Yin confirmed, “One yuan?”

“I didn’t believe he could pass, and I didn’t care about gaining anything from it. But he was very excited at the time and insisted on arguing with me. I just wanted to quickly dismiss him and have him go back to the lab.” Chu Ci sighed deeply, with a trace of regret. “If I had known it was the last time I would see him, maybe I would have spent more time… at least finishing explaining those last few points to him.”

There was silence in the interrogation room as everyone contemplated, only the sound of their own breathing could be heard.

“May I ask? How did Feng Yuguang… How did he die?”

Yan Yin snapped out of his thoughts. “Hmm,” he uttered, casually saying, “Hallucinogenic drugs.”

Chu Ci was somewhat surprised. “That’s impossible, he used drugs?”

“Because the case is not yet certain, we need to investigate. During the investigation phase, specific details cannot be disclosed to the public. As a high-achieving student, I don’t think we need to remind you about relevant regulations.” Yan Yin replied.

“…”

Yan Yin closed the notepad, stood up, and stretched his shoulders. Suddenly, as if remembering something, he said, “By the way, one last question. When my colleague asked you about the luxury bag, why did you claim to have no knowledge about it?”

Chu Ci, who had already stood up, hesitated at the question.

“…I didn’t want to cause trouble.”

He paused and slightly averted his gaze from Yan Yin, saying, “It’s really incomprehensible to receive a bag out of nowhere… When encountering strange things, it’s normal for a regular person to keep their distance, isn’t it, Officer?”

· “It is indeed very strange, but based on that alone, we can’t conclude that Chu Ci is a suspect.” Yan Yin opened the window, letting in the fresh morning air, sweeping away the various odors that had fermented overnight in the office. Qin Chuan, standing behind the desk, still seemed puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“If I were to kill my roommate, I would do it in a familiar place, not thousands of miles away in an unfamiliar location. In fact, ninety percent of student violence cases occur on campus. If someone really wanted to commit murder, it would be much more convenient to create a laboratory accident than to harm someone using atropine and methylenedioxyamphetamine.” Yan Yin explained.

Qin Chuan contemplated this for a moment.

“However,” Yan Yin changed the topic, “—Chu Ci’s testimony did give me some inspiration.”

“What?”

“At the moment, it’s still quite vague. I can’t say for sure, but I have a faint feeling that Feng Yuguang’s death may be related to his determination to pursue a Ph.D., and the coincidence of the surveillance malfunctioning in the chemical company.”

“But right now, I just want to sleep.” Yan Yin turned around, stretched lazily, and said, “As the handsome and charming Yan Ge, in order to enrich and entertain the lives of single young women in this city, I have fought and lost on the long journey of blind dates, repeatedly defeated and fought again, until exhausted to death. I urgently need a worry-free sleep of two hours like a baby to relieve my tormented heart…”

Qin Chuan sneered, “Don’t praise yourself. Exhausted to death? You’re dreaming.”

“Overexertion until disintegration. Haven’t you experienced it?” Yan Yin asked.

“…………”

“By the way,” Yan Yin suddenly remembered something and stopped Qin Chuan who was about to leave, “Tell the surveillance team to deploy and investigate all second-hand luxury stores in the city, focusing on the crime scene.”

Qin Chuan asked, “Second-hand stores?”

“Look for a target backpack with a missing zipper slider,” Yan Yin said. “With such new and recognizable brands, I don’t believe someone would just take it home to use for grocery shopping.”

Even at the city bureau, Yan Yin was a rare presence— he didn’t need rest.

He was a monster who could tirelessly fight for three days and two nights, always full of energy. He was a demon who could chase after drug dealers for ten kilometers without a break. He could endure even more than habitual thieves, be more active than serial killers, and more enduring and swift than bank robbers. After he came, the captain could finally find time to undergo the heart catheterization surgery that had been postponed for years.

Yan Yin closed the curtains, leaned on the desk, and closed his eyes, contemplating the testimony. A vague speculation arose from the depths of his heart, but whenever he tried to focus, the inspiration slipped away like a mischievous fish.

“It’s impossible, he used drugs?”

“He often stayed out late at parties, and he loved playing games on regular days,”

“Perhaps it was his miraculously low scores every time that gave him the confidence…”

What allowed a wealthy second-generation student with limited study time to pass every time and gave him the confidence that he could successfully pursue a Ph.D.? If it were another university, there might be something fishy, but Chu Ci’s university could basically exclude the possibility of money playing a role.

—So, is there a connection between this and Feng Yuguang’s death?

Yan Yin took a deep breath, knowing that he needed to take the time to sleep. He pushed aside those distractions, burying his head in the dark space created by the wooden desk and his arms.

The voices outside gradually faded, and the bustling cars in front of the Criminal Investigation Detachment became silent. In an instant, he sank into the deep sea of half-dreams and half-awake, where space and time quietly reassembled, bringing up forgotten subconscious thoughts.

As if in a daze, he left the office and stepped into a bustling hall.

Laughter echoed in his ears, glasses clinked, as if it were a joyous celebration. He stood vaguely amidst the tables and chairs when suddenly someone laughed behind him, saying, “Why are you running around like a headless fly? The person is over there, go and thank them!”

Thank you, Yan Yin thought, why should I thank anyone?

Everything I have today, I earned with my own life. Who should I thank?

But in the dream, he couldn’t help himself and stumbled forward in the crowd. Passing through many people who were laughing heartily but had blurry faces, a bright figure suddenly appeared in front of him. The figure stood with their back towards him, leaning against the window, talking softly on the phone.

“Why aren’t you toasting with people, Yan Yin? If it weren’t for Captain Jiang, would you have eventually received that second-class merit?”

“Go up there, what are you waiting for?”

“Look at you, you can’t even speak. You used to talk so much. Why are you so foolish now?”

No, my achievements were earned by myself, and have nothing to do with anyone else.

Why should I toast? Who do I rely on?

Countless voices clamored in his mind, but in reality, Yan Yin took a step forward. He couldn’t control his own actions, and the heavy resentment couldn’t resist the invisible, greater force. It was as if a certain past event was replaying, he raised his glass, and he heard his younger, slightly hesitant voice say:

“Um, Captain Jiang…”

Then he saw that scene once again.

Among all the dreams that seemed real yet false, only this scene was real. It was vivid and alive, as if it had happened just yesterday.

The figure was on the phone, not turning their head, just raising their hand. The slender fingers with the palm facing outward, displaying a gentle yet firm refusal.

“I understand,” that person said, “Go ahead.”

There was no deception, no need for flattery. All the anger and unwillingness amounted to nothing, and the psychological walls that had been built layer by layer were instantly swept away.

Weightlessness left Yan Yin momentarily at a loss.

“Go,” he heard the person’s tone slightly intensify.

Yan Yin didn’t remember how he turned and walked away. The blood in his body rushed to his head, but it could also be because of the alcohol. The boiling rage that had been forcibly suppressed suddenly disappeared, releasing the pressure and making him feel light-headed, dazed, with a tongue filled with indescribable bitterness and numbness.

But he should be happy.

He had “proven” himself, even though the enemy didn’t care much, and he didn’t need to put up any resistance.

Yan Yin walked through the bustling hall, through the winding corridors. He left behind the blood, sweat, and tears of his more than ten years as a detective, as well as the hardships and setbacks of his five years as a deputy director.

He walked towards his familiar office, rested his head on his arm, and fell into a brief and hasty deep sleep.

Ring, ring, ring—

Yan Yin startled awake, seeing the phone on the desk ringing incessantly. In a daze, he instinctively answered, “Hello?”

His mind was still groggy, but then Ma Xiang’s booming voice came, “Yan Ge! The Case Center received an emergency call, and it was transferred directly to you by Logistics!”

“What kind of emergency call?” Yan Yin was still a little confused. “Who made the call?”

The next second, Ma Xiang dispelled the last trace of sleepiness from him.

“It’s Lu Chengjiang,” Ma Xiang said, “the cultured gentleman in a wheelchair from the 502 Frozen Corpse case scene—do you remember? He made the call, and Logistics said it’s urgent. They want us to go there immediately.”