Author: 长洱 / Chang’er
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Xing Conglian was always like this. While he made it seem like it was free and democratic, in fact, it was completely hegemonic.
In the process of making judgments and decisions, he would not be influenced by anyone. They only needed to follow his orders. Although when he gave those orders, his words were often soft and his eyes were gentle, the content of those orders could be disobeyed and could not change.
For example, when he said not to follow the clues in the drug case, they must not touch it, or when he said not to make in-depth contact with the people on the dark web, they must not do so.
Lin Chen was sitting in the car. The light from outside the window flowed like water. He suddenly felt that Wang Chao really owed Xing Conglian a sizable amount of money.
He sighed almost inaudibly.
For some reason, Xing Conglian seemed to have noticed something. He closed the car window, and the car suddenly became quiet.
“Do you think we can finally find those people?”
Xing Conglian’s voice was low and almost cold.
Lin Chen suddenly felt that Xing Conglian was probably judging the situation again.
If he was sure, then they would follow the existing path, aiming to try and wipe out the group behind this; if he wasn’t sure, then Xing Conglian would probably choose to jump out and spook the snake after they visited the bookstore, forcing those behind the scenes to give up on their bloody plans.
Option A was perfect, but it was also possible that they would end up with nothing, which meant not only would they fail to catch the murderer, but they would also be unable to stop the tragedy that would unfold. Although option B was conservative and stifling and had endless consequences, there was nothing more important than preventing possible deaths and injuries.
If this were a series, they could drag the progress bar to take a peek at the end and then make the right choice, but in real life, once the choice was made, it was impossible to rewind and start over.
Suddenly, Lin Chen felt someone patting him on the shoulder.
He looked toward the front seat.
There was a strange smile in Xing Conglian’s eyes.
“Relax,” Xing Conglian said. “Don’t think too much. It’s not time to make a choice between life and death.”
Lin Chen was a bit speechless. It was obviously him who was thinking too much.
“But what if the Phoenix Book Mall clues are useless?”
“If it is, then it is. We’ll just look for another clue if it doesn’t work out. This is my responsibility. What does that have to do with you?”
“Consultant Lin, please speak?”
“Have you noticed that you’re quite dictatorial sometimes?”
When Xing Conglian heard this, he smiled without surprise. “How can that be? I have always been democratic.”
“This time, it’s different from before. I really have no certainty.” Lin Chen gripped his seatbelt as he continued, “Time is limited, and the clues are lacking. We’re basically taking a gamble.”
“It’s not a gamble. At any rate, under the guidance of Consultant Lin, we quickly found Jin Xiaoan.”
“But even if we find 10,000 Jin Xiaoan, the probability of them loosening their mouths is almost zero. They won’t tell us what will happen next. They won’t reveal whether what’s to come is going to be murder or arson, mass riots or mass suicide, a bank robbery or bus hijacking. Anything is possible, which makes it the most terrifying thing.”
“Uh… Consultant Lin…” Xing Conglian suddenly interrupted him. “Can I ask why they are so desperate to serve the organization? Is it appropriate for me to use the word ‘organization’?”
“Well, because they’ve been brainwashed.”
“Of course they’ve been brainwashed, but most of them are highly educated students…” Xing Conglian turned the steering wheel right, according to the navigation instructions. The letters for Phoenix Book Mall had become visible in front of them.
“Groups, brainwashing, suicide, and violence—haven’t you seen the pattern when combining these keywords before?” Lin Chen frowned as he asked.
“It’s because I’ve seen it that it’s all the more strange. How can the person behind the scenes be this successful in this and hide their identity so well that no one has ever reported these people all this time?” Xing Conglian thought for a moment, then said, “Even if it’s a pyramid scheme, there are warriors who would rather die than obey and finally escape from the nest, right? How are they able to pick such loyal victims? This is something that’s akin to sorcery.”
Xing Conglian stopped the car on the side of the road. He pulled on the handbrake and saw Lin Chen sitting in a stunned position, as if he had been struck by lightning; he wasn’t saying a word.
He leaned over and unbuckled the seatbelt for the psychologist.
After a soft click, Lin Chen moved.
“What did you just say?”
“I said a pyramid scheme.”
“Thank you.” Lin Chen patted Xing Conglian on the shoulder, then pushed the door open and got out of the car. “That’s why it takes three people.”
Lin Chen walked quickly. Xing Conglian jumped out of the car and hurriedly ran to catch up with him.
“Why three people?” he asked as he followed Lin Chen.
Lin Chen didn’t answer. He walked into the hall of the bookstore and then stopped on the left side of the entrance and casually wiped clean the whiteboard hanging in front of it. He picked up the marker from the stand and wrote down three letters without hesitation—A, B, and C.
The three letters were arranged in a triangle. Xing Conglian stood in front of the whiteboard as he stared at the letters Lin Chen had written.
From the beginning, the whole case had one of the most conspicuous but also the most difficult circumstances to figure out. Why were there three people, and why did three people die together?
Everyone knew that three had some meaning, but they had no idea what that meaning was.
“Although it’s not a pyramid scheme, there’s a classic operating model in all brainwashing procedures. We call this the ABC model*. A tricks B into the organization. A cannot do the ideological work of B. A is solely responsible for deifying and implanting C’s ideas in B. Therefore, in this organization, activities are generally based on three people.” Lin Chen spoke slowly, enunciating each word solemnly.
*It’s a simplified framework used in REBT to change irrational beliefs into rational ones, thus prompting healthier reactions to situations. The idea behind the ABC model is that a person doesn’t necessarily have to change their environment to feel better; instead, they can acknowledge and change their reactions to their environment.
Xing Conglian quickly understood what he meant.
“You mean Xu Haozhen tricked Wang Shishi into joining the organization?”
“Of course he didn’t mean that.”
A gentle voice came from the rear, which caused Xing Conglian to turn his head. He followed the sound and found that there was a publicity desk beside the bookstore. A young man sat behind the desk, twirling his pen and interjected in their conversation, looking bored.
The young man was wearing a smoky gray suit with a light-colored striped shirt. His hair and eye colors were light, which gave him an elegant look. It was clearly night, but he was like a flower that was basking in the sun, making it impossible for one to look away.
At the moment when Xing Conglian was in a daze, Lin Chen’s plain and frosty face showed signs of melting ice. Before he could react, Lin Chen had dropped the marker, walked around Xing Conglian, and gone to the publicity desk.
The young man in the suit stood up from his seat and then gently bent over and stretched out his arms as if to greet him. The next moment, Xing Conglian was shocked to see that Lin Chen had hugged the other party tightly.
For about five seconds, time seemed to have frozen.
Xing Conglian looked at the two people who were hugging tightly and watched Lin Chen put his hand around the other person’s back. He was so surprised he couldn’t close his mouth.
In the end, what broke the frozen time was an extremely malicious smile from the young man in the suit. Xing Conglian saw the young man curving his lips and even winking at him, full of implications.
Xing Conglian quickly regained his senses and moved towards the publicity table.
When he got closer, he realized that it wasn’t a publicity table, but a broken desk with flowery books on it with titles such as, “The Thirteen Consorts of the Tyrant” and “The Domineering General’s Sweet Concubine” which creeped him out a little…
In the middle of the desk, there was a name tag with the words “Famous Writer—Su Fengzi” written on it.
So this was an autograph event?
But how unpopular was it for this writer to set up a stall alone at night when there were no readers in front of the autograph desk? Given the book titles, it was normal that no one would care about it!
At that moment, Xing Conglian felt that, compared with the young man in front of him, Wang Chao was really like a normal child.
Just when he was seriously lamenting, the two people who were hugging tightly let go.
Lin Chen quickly calmed down.
Xing Conglian coughed in a low voice and, with a tone that he himself didn’t expect, extended his hand to the “famous writer”. “May I ask who you are?”
“Su Fengzi.” Xing Conglian saw the young man’s eyes darting to the name tag on the table and then looked back at him with a smile. “Isn’t it written on the sign?”
Not only was this person ill-mannered, but he also actually left Xing Conglian hanging and had no intention of shaking his hand.
Xing Conglian withdrew his hand and felt he was starting to miss the little comrade Wang Chao even more.
“So, what did Mr. Su mean just now?” Xing Conglian asked.
“Oh, what I mean is that it wasn’t Xu Haozhen who lured Wang Shishi into the organization. Xu Haozhen was the one who was deified. That’s why Wang Shishi’s Discrete Mathematics had Xu Haozhen’s name written on it.”
Xing Conglian’s thoughts turned as he quickly looked at Su Fengzi. The name on the book was an undisclosed detail in this case, so why did this person know about it?
Just when Xing Conglian frowned and was lost in deep thought, Su Fengzi, as if unaware, said, “Like Jin Xiaoan’s book has Jiang Liu’s name written on it. This kind of organization will give recognized members a little certification, just like being a member at a supermarket where you’ll be given a loyalty card or getting your idol’s autograph. Isn’t this creative?”
Hearing this, Xing Conglian became less nervous. He glanced at Lin Chen and then asked, “Who are you and why do you know the details of the case that hasn’t been announced?”
“That’s simple. I asked Professor Fu to keep me informed on the progress of the case at all times. If he doesn’t, I’ll post his nude photos all over the school windows.
Xing Conglian felt that this was simply outside of common sense. “Why do you have nude photos of Lao Fu?” Although he should focus on the case or condemn such illegal behavior angrily, he subconsciously asked the question he wanted to know the most.
“Photoshop…..” The person who answered was Lin Chen.
Xing Conglian turned his head blankly, but he only saw a helpless expression on his consultant’s face, as if something similar had really happened.
Given that even Lin Chen had no power to parry this man named Su Fengzi, Xing Conglian suddenly felt his mood getting better.
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