Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 54: Confusion
“You’re not Lu Guangzu at all.”
The exposed left eye was bloodshot and full of unspeakable exhaustion. Yin Ren’s fingertips were vaguely under the man’s real eye, and his movements were neither light nor heavy.
The man’s real and fake left eyes turned up at the same time, looking at Yin Ren. Yin Ren couldn’t see any emotions in the fake left eye because of its deformation, but the fear in the real eye was becoming more obvious.
“A demon painted skin* is even rarer than human fragrance.”
*Referencing a short story from Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling. You can read it by going to the Wikipedia. The TLDR: Demon put on human skin and try to seduce a human.
The reason for this was that, whereas human fragrance required only a small amount of flesh and blood, demon painted human skin didn’t…
To make demon painted skin, one needed to remove the entire human skin, marinate it with special ointment, and then carefully remove all impurities. After drying, it needed to be applied to the user’s face for three days and nights to set, and then finely modified with soft glass and ink worms, then glued together with rattan glue. In this way, it could be made into a real painted face. The materials were mixed so finely that even acne and stubble were revealed.
However, the practice of demon painting skins was extremely cumbersome, so it was a test of the craftsmanship of the spirit smith.
If it was badly done, the face would be stiff and swollen that even a layman could see something was wrong. The better the craftsmanship of the spirit smith, the more realistic the demon painted skin would be, to the point where no abnormalities would be found even by scraping it with a knife.
In this world where corpse servants were on the verge of extinction, Yin Ren thought that demon painted skin had disappeared. Even in Yin Ren’s era, this thing wasn’t very popular.
It was better to rely solely on handwork without touching evil qi. However, considering the production cost, the advantage was negligible—at that time, “Mud Meat Zhang’s” technique of body shaping was more popular and much faster and better in comparison. As for the evil qi left by the spell, cultivators had thousands of ways to cover it up.
“But to deceive Shian’s metaphysical examination is quite useful.”
Yin Ren commented objectively.
“The human skin is well peeled. It’s from a dead face you borrowed, right?”
“If you hadn’t borrowed another identity, you’d be in a bad situation—as my partner said, Fan Yong has the remnants of Evil Force on his body. As far as we know, this matter is related to Sunken Society.”
Hearing the words “Sunken Society”, the man’s breathing briefly became chaotic. He gritted his teeth, and a layer of sweat appeared on his forehead. “Please listen to me.”
“Make it short.” Yin Ren tapped the man’s eyes with his fingertips.
“I did pretend to be Lu Guangzu. I originally planned to take off this demon painted skin after the case was cleared…”
“The purpose of your so-called ‘deal’,” Yin Ren interrupted him. “Make it short, do you understand?”
“I hope you don’t expose me and at the same time help me find the real culprit privately.” The man hurriedly changed his statement. “I made both the human fragrance and demon painted skin myself. There’s no one else behind me.”
“Strange. You have the channels to get human fragrance, so you must’ve come into contact with the ‘true culprit’. Why would you go about this in such a roundabout way?” Yin Ren continued calmly.
The man didn’t answer right away. For a moment, a trace of sadness appeared on the broken face.
“Because I saw what he was thinking.”
Half a minute later, the man seemed to have made some major determination and took a long breath. “But I can only see vague and incoherent thoughts. I don’t know the identity of the culprit. I only know that he’s in Haigu.”
Yin Ren looked at the man in silence.
“I passed him on the street… He was thinking that Lu Yuanyuan as the first would be a bit eye-catching, but the finished product worked well. The next six were a lot easier since no one was looking for them. Then he thought again that his chair was about to collapse, and he wanted to change to a bean bag, so he needed better ‘talent’.”
“There were a lot of people on the road at the time, so I couldn’t chase after him. I only had time to release my spirit weapon to scratch him. Relying on his blood, I made the box of human fragrance.”
“Since you can ‘see parts of people’s thoughts’,” Yin Ren thought about this unheard-of weird ability for a while, “then the culprit’s face or figure should be easier to identify.”
The corners of the man’s mouth curled weakly.
“I can’t do it. I have my own limitations.” There was some self-deprecation in the man’s voice. “It sounds like bullshit, right? If I report this to the police and Shian, what do you think they will think?”
“I would tell them I saw the harmful thoughts of a stranger on the street. However, I don’t know their name, if they’re old or young, or any other details. Even if I can get their fragrance, it may belong to someone who ‘has come into contact with Lu Yuanyuan’. I can’t prove that the smell is from the true culprit.”
The man leaned back in his chair wearily. His eyes were a little dazed.
“Even if they are willing to believe in my abilities, maybe that ‘stranger’ is just a delusional person with countless ideas…”
“I have no actual evidence,” he concluded bitterly. “Even if they take the case, they won’t immediately invest a lot of manpower.”
“So you chose to become a ‘murderer’, become a topic in the metaphysical world in Haigu, and let the police and Shian solve the case.”
Yin Ren murmured without making any more comments.
“I know it’s reckless, but this is the fastest way.” Lu Guangzu gritted his teeth. “And I—I thought this kind of culprit would be extremely arrogant, not happy to have another take credit for his deeds, and he might take action…”
Unfortunately, it backfired.
“As a result, the real culprit in turn threw the ‘collapsed chair’ into the public, trying to confirm your identity as the real perpetrator,” Yin Ren said.
Ultimately, the person in front of him made a bad move.
Now that the human fragrance had been exposed, the focus of Shian’s investigation would shift, making him lose the initiative. The real culprit had someone to blame and didn’t intend on taking any action.
The ability to read minds? The ability to see what’s special in others? Things were getting more interesting than he thought. Yin Ren put away his hostility and moved his fingers up the bridge of the man’s nose.
The man shook, but he heard a sticky gurgling sound in his ears. The evil qi turned into spider-like filaments, sewing up the soft skin in a fine manner. The demon painted skin on his face was quickly smoothed and repaired.
“Well, I’ll let you go for now.” After repairing the demon painted skin, Yin Ren withdrew his hand. “But this is not a deal. I’ll investigate the way I want. I only have one request for you—”
The man looked at him steadily.
“Do not tell anyone about Zhong Chengshuo. If you reveal even half a word to others…”
“I understand,” the man replied with difficulty.
“Regarding other things, what you can and cannot say, I think you know in your heart, ‘Lu Guangzu’.”
Yin Ren patted his clothes and glanced at the exit of the interrogation room.
“…You don’t want to ask about Zhong Chengshuo’s secret?” Seeing that he was leaving, the man couldn’t help but speak up.
“His secret can be used by you as an important ‘bargaining chip’, which is enough for me.”
Yin Ren lowered his head again and leaned close to the man’s face.
“King Yama.” He spat out the words and looked with satisfaction as the man’s expression stiffened.
It wasn’t the shock of hearing it for the first time, but the guilt from losing his bargaining chip.
Yin Ren returned to his brilliant smile.
“What did Lu Guangzu say?” After Yin Ren came out, Zhong Chengshuo immediately asked.
“He saw that I was strange and wanted to recruit me to Sunken Society.”
Yin Ren scratched the tip of his nose with some embarrassment in his smile.
“It doesn’t look like Lu Guangzu is the real culprit. If I had to guess, he’s only responsible for clarifying the matter and spreading the word for Sunken Society… Forget it, I’ll write it in the report to Xiaohe Jie later. You prefer to read reports anyway.”
Zhong Chengshuo thought for a moment and didn’t continue to ask. “Okay, I’ll wait for your report.”
“I will also go in and talk to Lu Guangzu.”
“Talk to him? Zhong Ge, you’re not thinking of entering Sunken Society, are you?” Yin Ren put away his headphones. “This is a negotiation. We can’t give him what he asks.”
Before Yin Ren could intervene, Zhong Chengshuo had already picked up the file bag, walked into the interrogation room, and slammed the door shut.
…This scene seemed a bit familiar. Yin Ren bitterly swallowed back the “I’ll go with you” that he was about to say. Forget it, Great King Yama would have his own thoughts.
In the interrogation room, surveillance hadn’t resumed.
Zhong Chengshuo approached the target with his hands resting on the armrest of the chair. Those pitch-black eyes locked onto Lu Guangzu sharply, causing the latter to shrink vigilantly without saying a word.
“I see.” After staring at Lu Guangzu silently for a while, Zhong Chengshuo straightened up.
The cold sweat on “Lu Guangzu’s” forehead oozed out again—he couldn’t perceive Zhong Chengshuo’s thoughts. They were fast and chaotic as a storm, and he couldn’t pick out any valid information.
Zhong Chengshuo ignored Lu Guangzu and opened the file bag. He put the documents on the floor one by one.
It was the list of missing people in the last three months. The police carefully selected and eliminated the muddled disappearances, and accurately screened out ten cases of “disappearing from the world”.
Zhong Chengshuo walked around with the files with photos posted on them; his eyes never leaving Lu Guangzu for even a moment. Lu Guangzu was sweating coldly, and his eyes were wandering suspiciously. He knew these two people weren’t easy to provoke, but he didn’t expect it to be that hard.
He clearly deliberately pushed aside the difficult bone of “King Yama”!
After a while, Zhong Chengshuo put away all the documents on the floor. He took out two of them and put them aside separately.
“You replaced the real culprit and ‘surrendered’ because you want to use Shian and the police to find him.” Zhong Chengshuo spoke in a calm tone. “Obviously, there’s a more appropriate approach… You have a clue in your hand, but it’s difficult to verify?”
“Once you reveal things that have nothing to do with the real culprit, it will be difficult to influence the direction of the investigation. Coupled with the real culprit fishing in troubled waters, you know you can’t control the situation, so you turned to Yin Ren for help?”
“Yin Ren told you—” Lu Guangzu was shocked.
“He didn’t say anything, but covered up for you.”
It was just that Zhong Chengshuo wouldn’t accept all the words of his partner at face value. Zhong Chengshuo flattened the corners of the files without raising his head.
“I know him well. If you’re related to the true culprit, Yin Ren’s mood wouldn’t be so relaxed, let alone helping you hide your identity.”
When he entered the room, this person was such a mess that he couldn’t even maintain his clever disguise. Zhong Chengshuo only needed a small test to sink him with one blow.
It was interesting that he asked Yin Ren for help alone. However, his partner was a monster who could release a powerful and murderous aura. If this person’s “help” was too strong, it would only have the opposite effect.
Looking at the fear in “Lu Guangzu’s” eyes, most likely he was taught a lesson by the “reverse effect”. He didn’t know what kind of expression Yin Ren had shown at that time.
However, Yin Ren was alone, and there was nothing being manipulated, so he wouldn’t just casually reveal his strength. This person should have discovered Yin Ren’s “special” nature and wanted to use it as leverage… Was it a special ability, or…?
No, these things weren’t the point. Zhong Chengshuo put away his curiosity, took the two separate files, and walked to Lu Guangzu.
“Your gaze stopped on Lu Yuanyuan and Fan Yong for a long time but stayed on the other files at almost the same time, except for these two.”
“This lady should be very important to you. The way you looked at her was very soft.”
He placed a file on the small table in the interrogation chair and tapped on the photo on the file.
In the photo, the young girl was smiling sweetly. Her eyes were misty, with a translucent blue film, like a spiderweb.
The words “Ding Lizi” were written next to the photo, and the date of disappearance was two weeks ago. In the special circumstances column, the police noted “visually impaired” and attached a copy of a hospital exam report.
Lu Guangzu pursed his lips tightly. He looked at the file sadly but couldn’t look away.
“And your gaze has always avoided this one… Hm, this is the person who reported Ding Lizi’s disappearance. A male in his twenties, with extremely similar height and body shape to you.”
Zhong Chengshuo pushed another file and placed it next to the woman’s file. His eyes were locked on Lu Guangzu.
“This ‘missing reporter’, is it you?”
The man’s gaze shrank. He suddenly raised his head and looked at Zhong Chengshuo in disbelief.
“Don’t worry. I don’t mean to expose you for the time being.” Zhong Chengshuo withdrew the files and lowered his gaze.
Self-sacrificing surrender and being able to perceive Yin Ren’s specialness at a glance were really far from the Lu Guangzu they knew. Although he didn’t know if it was through plastic surgery or something else, it was unlikely that this person in front of him was “not Lu Guangzu”.
And when facing the “reporter’s” information, this person’s fear was only mixed with anxiety. He simply tricked the guy, and he fell for it.
Zhong Chengshuo shook his head in disappointment. “The top priority is to find the real culprit. I don’t plan to cut corners. I only have one request for you—”
The man stared nervously at Zhong Chengshuo.
“Don’t reveal Yin Ren’s specialness.”
Zhong Chengshuo said it in a flat tone as he put the reporter’s information on top of the stack of files. “I don’t have any plans on changing partners yet.”
The man didn’t know what Zhong Chengshuo was thinking. His face twitched. “Okay.”
Half a minute later, Zhong Chengshuo stepped out the door.
“How did it go?” Yin Ren leaned over curiously.
“He didn’t want to say anything.” Zhong Chengshuo pushed up his glasses. “I showed him the missing person file. He reacted a bit to one of them. We can start with this.”
He took out the information on “Ding Lizi” and handed it to Yin Ren.
Yin Ren quickly glanced at it. “I see… Zhong Ge, are you free tonight? I have something very important that needs your help.”
Zhong Chengshuo: “…?”
A few hours later, Zhong Chengshuo was looking out a window speechlessly.
They were sitting at the top-floor restaurant called Feng Dezhuang—the view here was exceptional. The lights outside the window were bright, and the sky was blotted with stars. The noisy sirens were left far behind on the ground, and only quiet classical music was left in the room. Their table had a vase filled with fresh red flowers.
Unfortunately, there were tons of shopping bags piled under Yin Ren’s feet that were crammed into a small mountain, which destroyed the elegant atmosphere around them.
Yin Ren’s “I need help with something very important” seemed to be asking him to help him eat. Before they came here, this person also walked around and bought a bunch of junk food for a midnight snack.
Zhong Chengshuo tried his best to ignore the mountain of calories that was close at hand. Just eating this much and not getting fat was enough to arouse suspicion of Comrade Yin Ren.
“My money has finally been reimbursed.”
Opposite Zhong Chengshuo, Yin Ren wiped away non-existent tears.
“I’ve been bothering you in the middle of the night recently, so I thought about thanking you. The vegetarian food here is delicious. I checked in advance.”
Zhong Chengshuo thought about it for a long time but wasn’t sure if this was considered courting. He could only nod his head and carefully taste the vegetarian version of braised pork and squirrel fish.
The braised pork had a rich taste, but there was no greasy aftertaste unique to fat. He didn’t know what ingredients the chef used, but as soon as the food entered his mouth, it could easily slide down his throat, leaving only a mouthful of fragrance and a long aftertaste.
The dishes were delicious, and the prices were equally impressive. In normal times, Zhong Chengshuo would never come to a place like this.
“Is it good?” Yin Ren looked at Zhong Chengshuo with a smile when he found that Zhong Chengshuo’s expression had softened a bit.
“It tastes good… Yin Ren, do you have something to tell me?” Seeing Yin Ren’s sly smile, Zhong Chengshuo had a bad feeling.
“Hmm? No, I’m just inviting you to dinner. There’s no word on the Evil Force on the chair, and Minister Fu hasn’t shown up recently. Things are definitely not easy, which means we’ll be much busier after this.”
Yin Ren held the squirrel fish between his chopsticks, and his voice was muffled. The squirrel fish here was made from potatoes. It was crispy, tender, and delicious, and tasted not much different from real fish.
“Zhong Ge, what do you think is going on with the culprit? Don’t serial killers always pick their victims? Now we have men, women, and even children all combined.” Yin Ren browsed a video website while eating.
“Maybe they all have something in common that we haven’t discovered yet.” Zhong Chengshuo took a sip of his alcohol-free wine. “Maybe you’ve been watching too much <Criminal Minds> and think the culprit harms others for other purposes.”
“I’m trying to find my lost memories. Maybe I used to be a foreign translator.” Yin Ren poked the squirrel fish in the bowl.
Zhong Chengshuo glanced at Yin Ren faintly and made no comment.
“Do you want to watch a crime drama together at night to find inspiration? We can’t hang ourselves on the tree called Lu Guangzu…”
A familiar voice interrupted him.
Yin Ren paused as he was about to grab some rice with his chopsticks. Zhong Chengshuo turned his head sideways—Bai Yongji was settling down with a few colleagues who happened to be sitting at a large table next to them.
“Haha, what a coincidence.” Bai Yongji smiled brightly. “You two are also here to eat?”
“Yes, I got my bonus today, so I’m treating my friend to something good.” Yin Ren lied smoothly and scooped up some vegetables with his chopsticks and gave them to Zhong Chengshuo.
“Have you considered my previous offer?” Bai Yongji slightly turned sideways, blocking a colleague who wanted to take a picture of Yin Ren. “We recently need a guest who looks good to make a temporary cameo. The pay is quite good.”
“Sorry, I didn’t…”
“It’s not convenient for him to go.” Yin Ren hadn’t had time to find a good excuse yet when Zhong Chengshuo took the lead. “Yin Ren was involved in an accident before and is still recuperating, so it’s not suitable for him to participate in this kind of activity.”
“Had an accident?” Bai Yongji was startled.
“Yes, I hurt my head and now have amnesia. Now I have to trouble Zhong Ge to take care of me.” Yin Ren gave an “embarrassed” smile. “Thank you, Bai Ge, for your offer. If there’s a chance in the future, I’ll definitely join.”
Bai Yongji was silent for a moment, then sighed. “I’m sorry! I didn’t know about this before. Health always comes first. Let’s talk about it after you recover.”
“We’ll have a good chat then. How are you and Dr. Sun progressing?” Yin Ren changed the subject with a smile.
“Last time I stayed for dinner. Her parents seemed very satisfied with me.” Speaking of Sun Qi’an, Bai Yongji showed a gentle smile. “Actually, I didn’t have such thoughts at first, but after more contact, I feel that Dr. Sun is very…. nice.”
“She doesn’t want to fall in love yet, so I plan to keep it as friends for now. You have to keep it a secret for me,” he quickly added.
Bai Yongji’s colleagues started heckling him. “Boss Bai is infatuated. You have to pay for this meal.”
Yin Ren looked at him for a while as he started to mix soup with his rice.
Bai Yongji wasn’t the type of person who was enthusiastic enough to make people uncomfortable. This elite understood when to stop and didn’t bother the two at the next table. Only when the group was about to leave did Bai Yongji come up again.
“Mr. Zhong, excuse me. I remember last time we met, you wanted to do some psychological counseling.”
“Xiao Sun won’t be free all the time. If the problem isn’t solved, be sure to remember to go to a formal institution and don’t believe in those messy side methods.”
Speaking of this, Bai Yongji lowered his voice. “I’m ashamed to say, I have also asked for psychological counseling before and was scammed out of thousands. That person almost brought me into an MLM organization. Fortunately, I woke up quickly.”
Yin Ren: “Really, is it so scary?”
“Yes, I talked about this with Officer Sun before, and I should have called the police at that time… I don’t know if it’s okay to go now. Here, look, I screenshotted some of my chat history.”
He casually showed them the screenshots in his photo album.
There were more than dozens of WeChat records from half a year ago. The other party’s ID was “Lu Guangzu” written in large characters.
The first were just some intermittent transfer records, but the content of the last screenshot was quite eye-catching.
[Lu Guangzu: Mr. Bai, your problem is a bit difficult.]
[Lu Guangzu: I have to ask for help from our expert. Why don’t I introduce you?]
[In A Flash*: Expert? What expert? Mr. Lu, the matter hasn’t even been resolved yet. I need an explanation.]
*Like a white horse passing quickly across a gap (白驹过隙). Idiom referring to time is fleeting and passes by quickly.
[In A Flash: Are you lying about the things you’ve talked to me about?]
[Lu Guangzu: Don’t worry. I dare not say anything else. Our family is real. You can inquire about us on the streets.]
[Lu Guangzu: Have you ever heard of “Sunken Society”?]
The screenshot stopped at this point, and the rest was empty, indicating the conversation didn’t continue.
“After that, I went directly to an acquaintance who was a policeman and was scolded by him. At the beginning, Lu Guangzu used a lot of pseudo-science as a coverup, momentarily confusing me for a while, which was why I almost fell for it.”
Bai Yongji smiled bitterly.
“Seeing is not always believing. There are many scammers in the world, so you two must be careful.”
The author has something to say:
Xiao Zhong’s King Yama skin exposed.
Xiao Yin: Happy to pretend to be ignorant and continue to tease King Yama (???
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Both of them are protecting each other
Thank you so much for your hard work!