“Yin Ping murdered his own brother. These years haven’t been easy for him either. He has suffered from chronic insomnia and developed a habit of alcohol abuse. His income is limited, so he drinks cheap liquor mixed with who knows what. He has chronic diseases in his heart, liver, and kidneys, with a high risk of blood clots. Even without this accident, there’s a chance he might succumb to his illness someday,” Fei Du quickly said. “The doctor said the surgery is done, but we don’t know when he will wake up. When he does, there will definitely be sequelae. To be optimistic, he might suffer from hemiplegia, have difficulty speaking, or even lose the ability to restore normal cognitive function.” Lang Qiao asked, “What?” Luo Wen Zhou let out a heavy sigh. “He’ll be mentally disabled.” “Why should he become mentally disabled!” Lang Qiao exploded upon hearing this, but then quickly realized her voice was too loud and lowered it. “If he becomes mentally disabled, I’ll just add a few more blows to his head and let him go apologize on the other side!” The atmosphere in the Municipal Bureau was chaotic, with no leadership and colleagues unsure who to trust… The sole witness was incapacitated. It was truly a dire situation. Luo Wen Zhou paced a few steps in the stifling corridor and wanted to force a bitter smile—being struck by lightning after showing off has been a recurring theme throughout history. He had just given Lang Qiao a pep talk, and in the blink of an eye, the situation had reversed. At that moment, Xiao Haiyang called. Luo Wen Zhou’s finger paused on the phone screen before swiping to answer. “Four Eyes, if you don’t have any good news, I’ll fire you.”

Xiao Haiyang was caught off guard by the sudden attack and had no sense of the leader’s dissatisfaction. He straightforwardly asked, “Why? Have I violated any rules again?” “…” Luo Wen Zhou was rendered speechless by his interruption. After a moment’s pause, he irritably asked, “What’s the matter?” Xiao Haiyang’s tone turned serious. “Team Luo, are you still at the hospital? Don’t leave yet. I’ll be there soon. We need to meet and talk.” Xiao Yanjing had a good sense of time. When he said he would arrive soon, five minutes later, he rushed into the hospital in the midst of the cold. The ward was crowded and noisy, so they went to a small garden in the back to find a stone table for some peace and quiet. The garden was meant for patients to take walks, but during this cold winter season, the water had turned into ice. There wasn’t a single patient strolling around, not even a crow in its down jacket. Xiao Haiyang placed two resumes and a printed form on the stone table and sniffed forcefully. “Team Luo asked me to investigate the people and vehicles present with Deputy Team Leader Tao that day. Everything is here, along with two resumes. The two officers who accompanied Deputy Team Leader Tao to visit Yin Ping’s home were our team’s Wu Ge and the police officer Kong Wei Chen from Nanwan Police Station…” “I know about Wu Ge. He’s been under my watchful eye since he graduated. If it weren’t for my master’s accident, he could have become my junior brother,” Luo Wen Zhou waved his hand dismissively. “We don’t need to focus on Kong Wei Chen for now. The key point is…” “No, I want to focus on Kong Wei Chen,” Xiao Haiyang clumsily pulled out Kong Wei Chen’s resume with his frozen fingers. “Team Luo, you know about the ‘National Poverty Alleviation Project for State-Owned Enterprises and Institutions’ that was carried out in our city a few years ago, right?” Luo Wen Zhou raised an eyebrow in confusion. “Hmm?” This kind of activity was more about appearances than actual substance. It was basically about everyone contributing money according to their rank, making a symbolic donation, taking a few photos, and writing a report. It had little significance and was discontinued after a few years. “The Nanwan Hongzhi School was paired with the Municipal Bureau that year. Several officials from the bureau visited the school and each person contributed 2,000 yuan. They individually supported several students with good academic performance selected by the school. Kong Wei Chen was one of them,” Xiao Haiyang said, and the three people around the stone table stared at him with wide eyes. Luo Wen Zhou had a foreboding feeling and felt that Xiao Haiyang’s mouth wouldn’t be able to speak any words of wisdom: “So what?” “I checked the school’s archives, and the sponsor listed for Kong Wei Chen that year was ‘Zhang Chunjiu’—oh, the former director who was transferred from the bureau in the first half of this year. Before he headed to Yin Ping’s home with Deputy Team Leader Tao, he had a phone call with Zhang Chunjiu,” Xiao Haiyang said. The three people around the stone table stared at him intently. Luo Wen Zhou’s face turned grim. “Xiao Haiyang, do you know what you’re saying?” “I know—I printed out the call records,” Xiao Haiyang wiped his nose with his frozen hand, and, as if lacking in common sense, met Luo Wen Zhou’s gaze. He pulled out a slip of paper. “Furthermore, I confirmed with Wu Ge. Wu Ge said that before they set off, he did see Officer Kong make a phone call. In passing, he asked about it, and Kong Wei Chen said, ‘The former leader is very concerned about this matter, so I’ll report to him.’ Wu Ge thought it was their leader in the station and didn’t pay much attention. I also found out that Kong Wei Chen was initially assigned to Qingyuan County, and it was with Zhang Chunjiu’s arrangement that he was transferred back to his hometown of Nanwan.” A cluster of dark clouds was involuntarily blown together by the wind, covering the sun and causing the only source of warmth to disappear. The surroundings immediately became shrouded in darkness. For a while, no one spoke inside the small pavilion. Suddenly, Lang Qiao felt the frailty of her body temperature, as the stone bench hadn’t warmed up during this half-day. The chill permeated through her clothes, evoking shivers from the inside out. After an unknown amount of time, Lang Qiao slowly regained her senses. She felt an indescribable anger explode within her, like a believer seeing someone defile a statue of a deity. She stood up abruptly. “Xiao Haiyang, are you sick? Is it necessary to dig up every little detail about receiving assistance or job transfers? Are you a secret agent of the military? Do we need to investigate every word spoken during our card games to see if there are hidden messages? If I hadn’t been born in the Qing Dynasty, it would truly be a waste of my talents if I wasn’t involved in the literary inquisition!” Xiao Haiyang paid no attention to people’s reactions and maintained a steady tone. “When Director Zhang was in office, the jurisdiction of the county town police station fell within his scope. Now that he’s been transferred, there’s no connection between Nanwan and him. Can you explain why Kong Wei Chen would contact him at a time like this? I know he is a martyr, and I know that if I said this to the people in Nanwan, they would beat me—they probably want to beat me too. But regardless of whether you believe it emotionally or not, this is the result of my investigation. This is the truth.”

“Ridiculous!” Lang Qiao snapped, “If it were you, would you harm someone first and then save them? Would you put yourself in danger to save others? Director Zhang has already stepped back from the front line, and yet you still bring this up…” Xiao Haiyang clasped his hands together and persistently said, “If it were me, of course, I wouldn’t. But everyone has different logic, and I don’t know how others think.” Lang Qiao grabbed his collar, pulling him forward. Xiao Haiyang’s entire body leaned forward, and his ribs hit the stone table. The temple of his glasses slid below his cheekbones. Luo Wen Zhou sighed, “Hey…” “Wait, let me say something,” Fei Du gently held Lang Qiao’s wrist. His hand had been in his pocket all along, carrying a hint of warmth from his coat. Only a faint trace of color remained on his fingertips, revealing a cuff of beige sweater on his wrist. The tense muscles on the back of Lang Qiao’s hand involuntarily relaxed. “First, if Officer Kong had a conversation with Director Zhang beforehand, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a cause-and-effect relationship between leaking information and him. Unless you have access to the complete call records and can provide irrefutable evidence that Officer Kong passed on the message in some way when they returned to Yin Ping’s home for the second time,” Fei Du paused lightly, “Second, even if the information was indeed leaked by him, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was a deliberate act…” Xiao Haiyang opened his mouth. Fei Du took Lang Qiao’s hand off Xiao Haiyang’s collar and separated the two of them. “I’ll make an inappropriate analogy, Haiyang, don’t get angry after hearing it—If Officer Gu were still alive, and he, as your senior and superior, asked you to do something you couldn’t understand under the guise of a secret investigation, would you obey unconditionally?” For some reason, when Fei Du spoke, Xiao Haiyang always found it easier to listen. He remained silent for a moment. “You’re right.” Fei Du asked, “What about the other officer and the vehicles? Did you investigate them?” “I did. The situation in the bureau is chaotic today, so I took the opportunity to sneak out Wu Ge’s personnel file. He’s a local, with a relatively short work experience, and his resume and personal background are relatively simple. I haven’t found anything suspicious for now, but I’ll continue to investigate further.” Xiao Haiyang adjusted his disheveled collar and glasses expressionlessly. “As for the police cars, they were severely damaged. They’ve been sent to the forensic department for detailed examination, but the results aren’t out yet. They haven’t been maintained recently, but they were used frequently. Almost all the field agents have had contact with them—If it’s a problem with the cars, then everyone in our team is a suspect.” Xiao Haiyang successfully silenced everyone with his words. Whenever investigating their own people, it was always the most painful. Perhaps only someone as heartless and ruthless as Xiao Haiyang, who disregarded personal relationships, could take on such a cold-blooded task. Xiao Haiyang glanced at the faces of the people around him, and seeing no one respond, he continued on his own, “I think now…” Luo Wen Zhou was starting to fear him and quickly interrupted, “Enough, Haiyang, take a break from talking.” “I haven’t finished yet,” Xiao Haiyang pushed up his glasses and disregarded whether others wanted to listen or not. His lips moved rapidly as he spoke, “I think we should quickly clarify Director Zhang’s motives for caring about this matter and whether the two pickup trucks are related to him.” Lang Qiao said, “Director Zhang was…” “Director Zhang has already been transferred since the beginning of the year, so even the investigation team couldn’t find anything on him. But don’t forget, during the maintenance of the monitoring in 203, he was still the head of the bureau,” Xiao Haiyang slightly raised his voice, “How long did he stay in that top position? Even after being transferred, his influence still remains. Do you know how many people unintentionally or intentionally would disclose information to him? Also, the surveillance system we currently use for field operations was established by him. During the arrest of Zheng Kai Feng, why was Yang Bo able to obtain a list of field agents that even our own people couldn’t easily access?” Lang Qiao stumbled with her words, unable to retort, and couldn’t help but want to take action again. “Evidence—Xiao Haiyang, you are accusing the former director of the bureau,” Luo Wen Zhou interrupted their intense confrontation, “If you find evidence, I’ll submit it on your behalf. Otherwise, we can pretend we didn’t hear what you said today. But when Officer Kong is buried, you have to kneel and apologize to him three times; otherwise, Tao Ran won’t let you off.” Upon hearing Tao Ran’s name, Xiao Haiyang finally calmed down and nervously pursed his lips. Luo Wen Zhou waved his hand wearily, “Go away.” However, Xiao Haiyang didn’t leave. He stood still for a moment, his freezing hand by his side, loosening and tightening. There was something peculiar about this bespectacled man. Whether he was in a crowd or standing alone, he seemed lonely, full of doubts, and filled with mistrust toward the air that passed through his nose and mouth. Except… Tao Ran.