Chapter 36: Possible Light
5 in the afternoon, Black Shield Team’s office.
Zhou Xiao Zhuan is sitting in front of a computer, immersed in searching for all information related to the case. Cold Face has gone to the Branch Bureau Chief’s office for a meeting, representing the Black Shield Team. Apparently, the Chief is having a fierce discussion on whether or not to continue waiting or to take action immediately.
Chatterbox is sitting across from Xiao Zhuan and is also working anxiously.
All of a sudden, Chatterbox slaps the table and stands up, “All 8 profiles are complete!” he retrieves a stack of paper from the printer. Xiao Zhuan rushes over to take them and starts reading them in detail.
T organized this competition anonymously, but he did not reveal the list of participants on the forum. Therefore, they’ve spent a lot of effort in confirming the participants’ names and identities: tracking their IP addresses, decoding mailbox passwords, and probing other netizens and insiders……
Ke Fan, male, 27 years old, a network engineer. He’s single and has participated and won prizes in numerous real life CS competitions.
You Chuan, male, 25 years old, also an IT engineer who is Ke Fan’s colleague. He’s single as well.
Li Ming Yue, female, 26 years old, works at a financial company. She’s a long-time CS fan.
Fang Xu, male, 28 years old, an interior designer (part-time). He’s single and lives in the same neighborhood as Ke Fan.
Yan Er, male, 27 years old, works as a freelance and is single. He also lives in the same neighborhood as Ke Fan and You Chuan.
Sun Dian, male, 34 years old, a contracted librarian at the provincial tourism college (temporary job). He’s single after divorce and has no children.
Zhang Mu Han, male, 26 years old, jobless, an avid CS fan.
Le Luo Xia, female, 26 years old and has been dating Zhang Mu Han for two years.
It’s hard to tell who’s suspicious based on this information.
Chatterbox picks up a copy, “I’ll take it to the Chief.”
“Okay,” Xiao Zhuan carries his copy back to his computer. After he thinks for a moment, he puts his hands together suddenly and prays to the empty space in front of him, “Buddha, please give us your blessings! Please preserve us! Please bless and protect Leader and Xiao Bai to be safe and sound.”
He feels more at ease after saying his prayers. He takes a look at the list of names and then flips open another stack of paper on the desk.
Before Han Chen and Jin Xi left, he was asked to look up on all CS competition death related cases. He has three case files in his hand right now; they all happened in the past five years.
In the first case, just prior to the day of the CS competition three years ago, a staff member suddenly fell from high grounds due to equipment malfunctioning. He has already contacted the competition’s organizer and the supervisor of the criminal investigation team who were involved at the time. They’ve confirmed that the person was the only staff member at the scene at the time of the accident. Therefore, he can rule out the possibility of it being a murder case.
In the second case, some company had organized a CS event for their employees a year ago. A 50 or so year-old employee died from a sudden heart attack. Xiao Zhuan has read the autopsy report conducted at the time and has not found anything out of the ordinary. He has also taken a look at the company’s list of employees, and it does not contain any of the 8 participants from this time. Therefore, he can also rule this one out.
Only the third case is left.
He flips open the folder in front of him. The first thing he sees is a photo of a young woman.
Even though it’s a photo of the deceased, he can tell that she was a pretty girl with fair white skin, rich black hair, an oval face, and big eyes. Despite that she’s wearing camouflage clothes, she still looks graceful.
The girl’s name is Gu Ran, 25 years old and used to work at a privately-owned company. She was also a fan of real life CS and loved outdoor sports. Last year October, she signed up to participate in the largest and most difficult outdoor CS competition held at the provincial level. The event attracted over 100 players to participate. Many of the mountainous areas surrounding City Lan were also used as temporary combat locations.
It was in this competition that Gu Ran got separated from her team, lost her footing and fell into a rushing stream of river. Two days later, a citizen spotted her body at a muddy area downstream of the river.
The mountain areas have large rainfalls during summer and fall, bringing many mudslides. There have been a few cases of these accidents at this area, so nothing seems to be strange about Gu Ran’s death at the surface level.
Xiao Zhuan thinks deeply for a while. He fetches the autopsy report from the file first, then dials Xu Si Bai’s number on the cell phone.
“Hi, Forensic Investigator Xu. It’s Xiao Zhuan,” Xiao Zhuan says in an especially friendly tone, “I want to trouble you about something. I have a case file with an autopsy report concluding that the deceased died of an accident. Although the body has been cremated, I still want to have you take a look to see if there was a possibility of it being a homicide case.”
Forensic Investigator Xu responds in his usual crisp and gentle voice, “Okay, Xiao Zhuan. Send it to me. I’ll reply back to you once I’m done.”
Xiao Zhuan thanks him repeatedly.
After hanging up, he contacts the competition organizer’s number listed in the file, “Hello, I am from the public security bureau. We are currently investigating a case and will need the list of participants as well as the staff members from last year October 9th competition…”
At the broken suspension bridge on the mountain.
The sky is darker here than in the city. The dark clouds look as if they are just above their heads. The rain hasn’t stopped.
Jin Xi’s left hand is being held tightly by Han Chen. Rain and mud are mixed together in between their fingers; it’s cold and rough. But warmth and strength can be felt through his palm.
As she raises her head, she sees many faces of fright and hostility questioning them.
“It’s them! It has to be them!” it’s Zhang Mu Han this time. He and Xia Zi is standing farthest away; at least 3 to 4 meters away from them. But he’s the most nervous and worked up out of them all, “Han Chen told me himself. He finished Yan Er!”
Everyone’s gaze changes.
Jin Xi’s heart already feels heavy after seeing Yan Er’s body and the broken bridge. Hearing his accusations makes her furious immediately. She turns and glares at him and lets out a sarcastic laugh, “Zhang Mu Han! Do you have no f–king brain……”
Before she finishes, she feels her hand being squeezed; Han Chen has pulled her back to stand behind him. Jin Xi catches a glimpse of his stern-looking side profile and dark eyes. She restrains herself and tightens her hold on his hand.
Everyone is staring cautiously at Han Chen.
He takes a look around and his gaze lands on Zhang Mu Han.
“Zhang Mu Han, are you f–king stupid? If I killed someone, would I even report it to you?” His usual deep and slow tempo voice gives the same set of words a sense of dominance.
Zhang Mu Han freezes for a second. He doesn’t dare to talk back. The others also don’t say anything.
Jin Xi was feeling angry, but hearing him scorn Zhang Mu Han makes her want to laugh suddenly. She doesn’t feel as gloomy now. She looks at everybody around them indifferently.
“Yan Er wasn’t killed by us,” Han Chen looks towards Ke Fan, “When we got here, his neck was still bleeding non-stop, which meant that it had been no more than half an hour since his death. When Jin Xi and I split up with Yan Er, we walked to the Red Team, where we stayed for a while. It was not until we heard Li Ming Yue’s scream that we rushed back here. That was almost an hour later.”
Jin Xi glances at Zhang Mu Han, “Yeah. Speaking of which, you guys are our witnesses proving that we weren’t at the scene.”
Zhang Mu Han and Xia Zi are both stunned. Ke Fan reveals a doubtful look. You Chuan and Fang Xu still haven’t spoken a word. Li Ming Yue continues staring at Han Chen’s and Jin Xi’s faces as if she’s scanning them with her eyes to catch any lies.
“He’s right. They couldn’t possibly kill Yan Er,” a raspy and dull voice says. It’s actually Professor Sun.
Everyone turns to look at him.
Professor Sun’s expression remains gloomy yet calm, “In the last half an hour, they’ve been with us all along.”
Fang Xu says suddenly, “He says it’s half an hour and you believe him?”
Professor Sun shakes his head, “I’m a professor. At least I understand this bit of common sense.”
Everyone seems to be leaning towards believing them now that Professor Sun has spoken. They look at each other and start to put down their knives.
“Who killed Yan Er then?” Xia Zi asks in a trembling voice.
They all look at each other.
Bai Jin Xi interrupts, “That’s simple. Yan Er was killed, the bridge has been cut off so that we can’t leave and can’t contact the outside world. This clearly is an act of revenge. Have you guys and Yan Er done anything against your consciences?”
Everyone is stunned.
Han Chen looks at her with the corner of his eye; they’re dark and bottomless. He turns and looks ahead again.
He pinches the back of her hand lightly.
Although he hasn’t said anything, Jin Xi understands him right away——
Nice and beautiful move.
The sky is getting darker and darker. Everyone’s expression is complicated and unreadable, to begin with, and now that they’re all quiet, it’s hard to spot anything suspicious.
Ke Fan is the first to speak, “How can there be such thing? We are all ordinary people. Why would anyone hold a grudge on us?”
Fang Xu continues without much emotion in his voice, “Yeah. Bai Jin Xi, are you trying to have us turn against each other? What’s your motive?”
Bai Jin Xi watches each of their facial expressions in detail.
“Could it be what happened last year?” a low female voice interrupts. It’s actually Li Ming Yue, who’s been quiet this whole time.
Everyone turns to look at her.
Jin Xi feels her heart shake——here it comes!
But instead, they see Li Ming Yue leaning against a tree with a stark expression and a knife in her hand resting at the side of her body. She looks at the other guys with a complicated gaze.
“Shut up, Ming Yue!” Ke Fan shouts suddenly. His bright and handsome face is now cold and grave, “What nonsense are you talking about?”
Ming Yue moves her lips, but no sound comes out.
But the other guys, You Chuan, Fang Xu, and Professor Sun are expressionless. Zhang Mu Han and Xia Zi are also dumbstruck.
“It looks like something did really happen,” Han Chen looks around at everyone slowly. His gaze stops at Li Ming Yue, “If you guys don’t say it out, how will we be able to confirm who the killer is? How are we going to prevent the killer from killing another person?”
Before Ming Yue can say anything, Ke Fan speaks again, “There is nothing at all. Ming Yue, don’t make a big deal out of something so minuscule! Just think about it, how could it be possible?” He looks at Han Chen, “Since there’s proof that you two aren’t the killer and it’s not one of us either, there’s only one possibility——” he pauses before continuing with a more serious voice, “there’s a maniac killing people hiding on this mountain, and he has his eyes on us!”
Zhang Mu Han and Xia Zi both gasp at the same time. The others also seem to feel uneasy. Only Han Chen and Jin Xi haven’t shown any emotions. Jin Xi turns and looks at Ming Yue with a scrutinizing gaze. Just before she probes, Ming Yue’s expression changes, and her eyes look solemn, “Big Ke is right. I was too scared and started thinking of nonsenses.” She looks at Jin Xi and Han Chen, “There’s nothing. It was a small matter only, which shouldn’t result in killing others. Big Ke, what should we do now then?”
Jin Xi looks at her deeply, but her eyes are determined; she has made up her mind not to tell them.
Jin Xi turns to Han Chen. His face is indifferent as if he knew that they would have this laughable outcome.
Big Ke looks at the sky, “It’s almost completely dark. Let’s find a place to rest first, and then find a way to contact the outside and call the police.”
They’re all exhausted from running around all day, as well as being nervous, so no one disagrees with the plan. They all turn and walk towards the forest. Han Chen and Jin Xi are at the end of the group. Han Chen says suddenly, “Starting now, don’t let anyone separate from the group. All 7 of us must stay together until we reach the police.”
He looks at the group in front of him and actually says with a bit of wickedness, “As long as we stick together……the killer won’t be able to make another move.”
Jin Xi never thought that he would provoke T directly. Her heart pounds, but she also feels a rush of adrenaline at the same time.
That’s right. Even though one person has died, as long as the rest of them work together, T won’t be able to do anything with so many pairs of eyes watching him. And once they reach 8am tomorrow, he will have to follow through on his promise of turning himself in. The police will also take action to arrest him and save them.
At that time, they will be the winners of this competition and the others will be saved.
Everyone remains silent after hearing Han Chen’s words.
“Okay.” “Okay.” “I agree.” Their voices say one after another.
Ke Fan turns around and glances at Han Chen and doesn’t comment. He continues leading the pack.
They walk for about half an hour and finally find a flat area in the forest. The rain has also stopped. Ke Fan suggests, “Let’s rest and have a snack first.”
Everybody nods in agreement.
They spread themselves out. Han Chen and Jin Xi sit beside a big rock. She feels light again after taking off the backpack. Han Chen reaches for a cigarette but the matchbox is completely soaked. The remaining three cigarettes are also wet and squishy. He leans against the rock and flicks once, twice, and three times to get rid of them one by one.
Jin Xi takes a drink of water from her canteen and says, “See? I told you to share some with me this morning and you refused. People who don’t share can’t be happy for too long.”
Han Chen puts one arm behind his head and stretches out his long body. He glances at her, takes the canteen and gulps down some water.
“Women shouldn’t smoke,” he says casually.
Jin Xi is a bit surprised. She clicks her tongue and doesn’t bother talking back at him.
“How come this backpack is not waterproof?” Xia Zi exclaims not far away.
“Yeah. My biscuits and sleeping bag are all wet. How come even the watch isn’t waterproof?” Zhang Mu Han says angrily, “None of it can be used anymore! How are we going to sleep at night!?”
Hearing their words, everybody also opens up their own backpacks and pours everything out. Just as they thought, everything is soaked. Fang Xu takes out his compass and it is drowned with water.
Usually, in these competitions, the equipment that they’re provided with are waterproofed. The backpacks that they got also have waterproof labels on them. Who knew that they would be fake?
Han Chen and Jin Xi make eye contact. He stands up straight immediately. Jin Xi knows it’s bad news in her heart. She ruffles through the backpack and finds the two signal guns.
They’re soaked and can no longer be used.
Jin Xi turns around with her back facing everyone. She shakes the signal guns depressingly, attempting to get the water out. Han Chen watches her frowning eyebrows and pouting lips and giggles suddenly. He takes the guns from her hands and throws them behind where they land in the bushes.
Jin Xi stares at him in disagreement, “Why did you throw them away?”
He bends down close to her ear and says unconcernedly, “I’ll watch over You Chuan, and you watch over Fang Xu. Whoever makes a suspicious move, let’s team up and catch him.”
Chapter 36: Possible Light