Fei Du was initially a bit shocked, but quickly relaxed and confidently reached out to embrace Luo Wenzhou. “Hmm, Uncle Policeman, what can you do to me?”

Fei Du undoubtedly had a pair of beautiful eyes, especially when he smiled. The light around his pupils reflected multiple layers, showcasing the natural complexity that even the most high-end cosmetic contact lenses couldn’t replicate. Within them were the miracles shaped by billions of years of evolution—expressing the ever-changing seven emotions and six desires, the subtle twists and turns of joys and sorrows. They were like the “world within a grain of sand” in fantasy novels.

Clearly, Fei Du’s “world within a grain of sand” had an impenetrable shell.

Luo Wenzhou stared at him from close proximity, his throat moving. Then, without saying a word, he forcefully pulled open Fei Du’s collar. The action was a bit rough, causing the buttons on his shirt to roll onto the floor, and his skin was exposed to the slightly chilly air. Goosebumps appeared on Fei Du’s neck, and his tattoo on his chest was revealed—it was a fierce beast that seemed to be about to devour someone.

As Luo Wenzhou’s gaze swept over, it paused slightly. “I remember that last time in Xiling, it seemed like the tattoo wasn’t this one. Did you get it removed?”

Fei Du playfully flirted with him, shamelessly allowing Luo Wenzhou to look at him. “It’s an ultra-realistic tattoo sticker with nanotechnology, even more waterproof than the eye makeup of the synchronized swimming team. Of course, it’s false advertising. So, I suggest… hiss… you better not lick it.”

Luo Wenzhou’s slightly calloused fingers grasped Fei Du’s neck, forcing him to raise his head. Fei Du didn’t seem to care. It was as if what Luo Wenzhou held in his hand wasn’t his precious throat but a tie bought from a street stall—easily torn and not worth being cherished.

Luo Wenzhou looked down at him condescendingly. “Why not get a real tattoo? Are you afraid of pain?”

Fei Du calmly nodded. Before he could finish nodding, Luo Wenzhou suddenly tightened his grip. The air became stagnant, and the most vulnerable spot was held firmly. Fei Du shivered slightly in a physiological response, but Luo Wenzhou could feel that his carotid artery remained steady, like a straight line, without any acceleration. Fei Du even struggled to smile at him with difficulty. “You… like… this one?”

“If you block your breath for a few dozen seconds, your lungs will start to experience unbearable pain. Then, due to lack of oxygen, you’ll feel dizzy. Your eyes will begin to redden. Your underdeveloped brain will panic, recklessly cutting off other functions of your body to survive. Your limbs will become numb and weak, losing the ability to resist. Then, you’ll enter a trance-like state, no longer feeling your own body, experiencing muscle spasms. Within a few minutes, you’ll die.” Luo Wenzhou suddenly released his grip on Fei Du’s neck. “And it won’t be a pleasant death… You’re afraid of pain, but not this?”

Fei Du seemed to know how to avoid coughing. After Luo Wenzhou let go, instead of instinctively gasping for air, he simply moved his neck lightly and nonchalantly said, “It’s just another form of… pain.”

“You’re not afraid of what I’ll do to you,” Luo Wenzhou interrupted him, placing a hand near his ear. “You’re not afraid of me using violence or hurting you. I’m pinching your neck, and your heart rate hasn’t increased. Why is that? Do you trust my character that much, hmm?”

Fei Du smiled somewhat surprisedly. “What, is trusting you not enough?”

Luo Wenzhou made an expressionless “oh” sound. “Since you trust me so much, then answer me one question—If I remember correctly, your dad threw away this ashtray. Did you buy another identical one later, or did you retrieve the previous one?”

Fei Du didn’t expect Luo Wenzhou, who was flirting with him just a moment ago, to suddenly launch such a counterattack. His pupils subtly contracted, and at this distance, this slight change was not hidden from Luo Wenzhou’s eyes.

“Why? Is it because you’re still investigating her cause of death?”

Fei Du suddenly pushed him, but Luo Wenzhou was prepared. In the instant he was pushed away, he pulled Fei Du’s shoulder towards him, skillfully using the same arrest techniques he used on suspects, easily twisting Fei Du’s arm behind his back and kneeling on the sofa, immobilizing his legs.

Fei Du struggled a few times, but in the face of Luo Wenzhou, who was a professional and wouldn’t easily be provoked to violence, the gentleman who relied on words rather than actions had no way to resist. He could only sneer, “Captain Luo, if you don’t want to comply, just say so. We can still be friends in the future. It doesn’t look good to resort to violence…”

As he said this, his defiant words suddenly came to an abrupt stop.

Because Luo Wenzhou suddenly leaned down and kissed his forehead.

Fei Du: “…”

Luo Wenzhou not so gently ran his hand through Fei Du’s messy hair, catching a glimpse of the fleeting panic on his face. It was strange how a playboy who could charm anyone, anywhere, suddenly appeared flustered as if it were the first time someone had expressed affection for him.

It was as if he had never experienced “tenderness” in his entire life.

For some reason, Fei Du’s unease sent a shiver down Luo Wenzhou’s spine, more noticeable than when he faced Fei Du’s “impressive skills” of eloquence and wit. His throat moved slightly, and he had the impulse to kiss Fei Du again but managed to restrain himself, slowly releasing his grip.

“You’re not afraid of me hurting you, not even when you’ve entrusted your body and life to me. But you’re afraid of me asking a few unrelated questions,” Luo Wenzhou said. “To be honest, for you, it’s harder than death, isn’t it?”

Fei Du remained silent, maintaining his calm without answering or causing any more trouble.

“In fact, I also have a lingering question. Let me tell you a story, whether you listen or not,” Luo Wenzhou suddenly said.

Fei Du didn’t make a sound, and Luo Wenzhou didn’t pay attention to him. He started speaking, “When I just graduated, I always thought I would accomplish great things. Whenever I had spare time, I liked to browse those online posts about ‘XX Unsolved Mysteries.’ I would analyze the case based on the distorted information online, and sometimes, I would argue with others when our opinions differed. In the end, every case would lead me to the same conclusion—that those discussing the matter online were fools.”

“At that time, young girls were obsessed with time-traveling back to the Qing Dynasty to marry a prince. Occasionally, I would overhear female classmates discussing it, and I thought, if I were to time-travel, I would go back to the Victorian era, first to catch Jack the Ripper.”

Luo Wenzhou laid bare his clueless dark history without a care, and strangely enough, Fei Du didn’t seize the opportunity to sarcastically comment.

“As it turned out, things weren’t like that after I started working. At that time, there was a policy in this city that required new hires to have at least one year of grassroots work experience. So, I was assigned to this police station in this area.” Luo Wenzhou reached out and waved his hand in front of Fei Du’s eyes. “Do you know what petty matters the police handle at the station?”

Fei Du looked up at him.

“Things like lost keys, missing dogs, kids fighting and losing a tooth, water leaks in the upstairs tenant’s home… In short, we were dealing with trivialities left and right. We, the newcomers, were given the most significant responsibility of catching a few thieves who broke into houses. The only thing that could be called a ‘case’ was the incident at your home, which seems to have been handled rather unsatisfactorily. I worked here for a year and felt that if I continued, I’d hang myself. So, I desperately clung to Taoran and took the exam for a position at the municipal bureau—of course, I had some connections that helped me get there.”

As Luo Wenzhou spoke, he shook his head. “But life at the municipal bureau wasn’t much better. Everyone knew you were a spoiled child who had high expectations but low skills. I was reprimanded every day, especially by Lao Yang. He said all sorts of nasty things, and no one wanted to take on the tasks I was assigned. It seemed like they all held grudges against me. I suffered grievances all day long, and the monthly salary wasn’t enough to buy cigarettes. I barely lasted six months. I had already drafted my resignation report and was about to submit it when Lao Yang asked me to meet with him and an informant to investigate a prostitution ring.”

“These types of organizations usually have some connection to the criminal underworld. Many young girls are deceived and coerced into joining them through various means. Lao Yang was chatting with the informant when suddenly, a girl covered in blood ran out, followed by two men with sticks and knives chasing after her. The girl ran and cried for help, but the people around didn’t pay it any mind. Filled with righteous indignation, I went forward to confront them, and I ended up knocking down two of them before a group of others joined in.”

Luo Wenzhou spread his hands. “Have you ever poked a hornet’s nest?”

Fei Du: “… Why would I poke a hornet’s nest?”

Luo Wenzhou sighed somewhat regretfully. “Then you probably won’t understand the heart-pounding experience we had at that time. Although we were beaten up, we managed to rescue the girl. Lao Yang, in order to protect me, took a knife strike on his thigh and back, fracturing his knee cap. Despite the big mess I caused, he didn’t scold me for the first time. He even said that although I was unreliable, at least I looked like a policeman. Maybe I developed Stockholm Syndrome from being scolded by him. A few kind words and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I tore up my resignation report when I got home and became his underling from that day on.”

Fei Du’s expression eased, and he even showed a slight smile.

“But that’s not the point of this story.” Luo Wenzhou suppressed his previously playful tone and spoke in a serious voice. “The point is, after that incident, Lao Yang’s knee injury worsened. Being overweight and getting older, it became more severe, especially on rainy days. He would avoid stairs at all costs. However, he met his end in an underground passage while walking home from the market, just fifty meters away from a pedestrian crosswalk.”

Middle-aged and elderly people with mobility issues consciously avoid overpasses and underground passages when crossing the street, even if it means taking a longer route. Yang Zhengfeng was walking from the market to his home, and going to the market and cooking at home were his biggest hobbies. He would make this trip every few days, so it was impossible for him to always avoid the sidewalk and challenge the capacity of his knees.

“Why did he take the underground passage?” Luo Wenzhou softly asked in the silent living room. “The hiding spot for the fugitive was deep inside, where people passing by on the ground couldn’t possibly see him. I can’t figure it out. I even secretly checked Lao Yang’s communication records at the time—nothing. The call records on his phone were exceptionally clean. Apart from the call he made for backup support, there were no suspicious telemarketing or fraud calls in the days before or after.”

“Buying groceries, encountered a fugitive, and the old police officer even made a call for backup,” Fei Du said. “What else?”

“There were eyewitnesses,” Luo Wenzhou said. “Lao Yang had only a bundle of celery and a bag of ground meat. He was unarmed. He wouldn’t have acted recklessly if it wasn’t for an old lady walking her dog who happened to pass by. I don’t know how, but she alarmed the fugitive. Seeing that the pedestrians were in danger, Lao Yang rushed forward.”

“What about the fugitive?”

“The fugitive was mentally unstable and couldn’t provide any information. We investigated the eyewitnesses, and there were no issues. The residents in the area confirmed that the old lady lived nearby and passed through there every day on her way to the park across the street.”

Coincidences, flawless cause and effect, and the perfect accident resulting in the death of the righteous old detective—

“I brought up these doubts to the bureau,” Luo Wenzhou said. “My colleagues and superiors cooperated in investigating and gathering evidence, but in the end, we found nothing. You know, when someone dies like this, their relatives and friends often can’t accept it and tend to imagine a fictional culprit to vent their grief…”

Fei Du continued his sentence, “Just like I did back then.”

“Like you did back then,” Luo Wenzhou suddenly grabbed his hand. Fei Du instinctively pulled back, but the man held on tighter. “After that incident, I vaguely felt that your intense skepticism of your mother’s case report may have been justified. But Fei Du—”

Luo Wenzhou looked up at him. “You can always remember her and never give up on the truth, but you can’t trap yourself inside. I forgot to tell you that day, actually…”

Fei Du exerted force and forcibly pulled his hand back. “What’s trapping me isn’t her cause of death.”

Luo Wenzhou was taken aback.

“Not that,” Fei Du shook his head, diverting his gaze and staring at the ashtray on the table. He fell into silence for an unknown amount of time, as if he had used up the last bit of strength to squeeze out a sentence. “I know how she died… but not that.”

If souls could sweat, Luo Wenzhou estimated that he would be drenched by now. He had truly exhausted all his tricks just to pry open Fei Du’s mouth. He was about to say something to ease the tension when he saw Fei Du abruptly leave the guest room without saying a word and head straight upstairs to the bedroom.

Luo Wenzhou was about to follow him when his phone suddenly rang. Frowning, he answered, “Tao Ran, what’s up?”

“You heard about the fire at the Dong residence, right? The fire has been extinguished, and we’re inside now.” Tao Ran quickly spoke. “It was arson. Someone set fire to some kind of paper product and threw it on the sofa before leaving. The neighbor across from Dong Xiaoqing’s house has surveillance cameras in the hallway and captured the appearance of the person: male, about 1.75 meters tall, fully covered, not revealing his face.”