Author: 长洱 / Chang’er
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Although tempting, Lu Xu’s suggestion was obviously not taken into account.
Xing Conglian frowned and asked Lu Xu, “How can you not know who the customer who placed the order is?”
“Because now, customers all use their phone apps to place orders!” Lu Xu’s tone was inscrutable. “Rich people like to play like this, you know?”
“What do you mean by phone apps?” Xing Conglian asked calmly, as if he really didn’t understand the inner workings, but Lin Chen knew Xing Conglian was as excited as he was now.
Because if Li Jingtian had used his own phone to place the order, then there must be some records of it on his phone, and Wang Chao had gone through that phone because his Weibo account was “hacked”.
Since it was Wang Chao, naturally, there was an absolute possibility that he secretly backed up Li Jingtian’s phone data and usage.
“It means the customer uses their phone to order, and then a text message will be sent to my phone, telling me what kind of girl and which room to send her to. Isn’t this safe? It is said that when the guest departs, arrangements will be made to avoid meeting. Rich people love to do such nasty things all day long, so naturally they would pay attention to personal privacy, especially when they’re shameless.”
Xing Conglian nodded and called Wang Chao. After explaining the situation, Wang Chao asked him something, to which Xing Conglian turned back and asked Lu Xu, “Do you have that ordering software on your phone?”
Lu Xu sighed and said regretfully, “How can I have it? This is a treatment that can only be enjoyed by members who have paid a certain amount of dues and are very trustworthy. I hear that if the client isn’t satisfied after the order, they can leave a bad review and the lady who served them will have her salary deducted. That’s what I’ve been told anyway.”
“Truly keeping up with the times. Copy your text messages and send them to me later,” Xing Conglian said coldly to Lu Xu. He then asked Wang Chao to meet in the basement and hung up the phone.
Xing Conglian sighed regretfully and quickly switched topics, asking, “Do you know where Mu Zhuo is?”
Lu Xu didn’t react for a moment. “Who are you talking about? I don’t seem to have a lady under me named Mu… What?”
“Mu Zhuo.” Xing Conglian pointed to the advertisement on the large LED screen in the commercial plaza opposite of the building they were in. The image of a young man roaring on stage flashed away. “Is he here?”
“Oh him.” Lu Xu’s eyes lit up. “Ah, Mu Zhuo should be in Tianqing Lake on the outskirts of the city right now. Isn’t the Watermelon Music Festival coming up? He’s probably rehearsing there. Why are you looking for Mu Zhuo? Is it possible he’s also one of the guests?”
Lu Xu thought about it for a while.
“Why are you talking so much?” Xing Conglian walked out the door, hooked his finger at Lu Xu, and motioned for him to come out with him.
Lin Chen put down his coffee cup and stood up from the sofa.
When they walked out of the office, there was an instant change. Xing Conglian and Lu Xu seemed like good friends. Xing Conglian hooked his arms around Lu Xu’s shoulders as he faced the concerned eyes staring at the office. Lu Xu had to smirk, as if he were having a normal conversation with the police, and the events of being tortured to extract a confession and almost being shoved out the window never happened.
When they reached the elevator entrance, Xing Conglian shook Lu Xu’s hand and said, “I really appreciate Manager Li’s strong cooperation with our police work. If everyone could actively provide clues to the police like you, then our work would be so much easier.”
“Of course, of course.” Lu Xu finally noticed Xing Conglian’s abnormal attitude. He wanted to withdraw his hand but was still dragged into the elevator by Xing Conglian.
Lin Chen silently followed them.
After the elevator door closed, Xing Conglian instantly changed his expression. He let go of Lu Xu’s hand and wiped it on the neckline of his shirt. “Mr. Lu, look. If something happens to Royal One, will everyone suspect that you’re a mole?” After asking, he took the liberty to answer for him. “I think this is very likely.”
Just when Lu Xu thought everything would pass, he was so frightened his legs went limp again. “Captain Xing, what do you want? I told you everything you wanted to know!”
“Borrow your car to take it out for a spin,” Xing Conglian said casually.
The elevator door opened with a ding, allowing the cool air of the parking lot to rush to their faces.
Wang Chao was at the elevator entrance, like an ant on a hot pan*. Seeing them, the teenager said anxiously, “Captain, Captain! Big news!”
*(热锅上的蚂蚁) Idiom describing the appearance of irritability, anxiety, and restlessness.
Xing Conglian raised his chin to Lu Xu and motioned for the other party to lead the way to the car, then asked Wang Chao, “What?”
“Li Jingtian bought a flight leaving Yongchuan at 15:30 to Xinni. He’s going to run away!”
“How do you know? How?!”
“Are you the only one who can surf the internet? There are only two flights a day from Yongchuan to Xinni. One at 9:50 and the other at 15:30 in the afternoon. Of course, I want him to leave during this period.”
Wang Chao turned his head and looked at Xing Conglian in disbelief. “I thought you were just talking about letting him go. What should we do now? Li Jingtian will leave in 6 hours!”
“Naturally, during this time period, we need to find key evidence to convict Li Jingtian.” Xing Conglian spoke nonchalantly.
While talking, they had already reached Lu Xu’s car.
Lu Xu drove a Mercedes-Benz S200. When Xing Conglian saw the car, he let out a “huh” in surprise.
Lu Xu was about to habitually sit in the driver’s seat when Xing Conglian patted him on the shoulder and motioned for him and Wang Chao to sit in the backseat.
Wang Chao showed a look of great reluctance, but under Xing Conglian’s gaze, he could only squeeze into the back seat with Mr. Lu, who was over 200 kg.
Lin Chen fastened the seatbelt on the front seat and heard Wang Chao shout from the back, “Captain, you still need to adjust for the time to get back to Yongchuan. If my math is right, that means we actually only have four and a half hours left to find evidence!”
Xing Conglian was fumbling with the Mercedes-Benz driving system, looking quite interested in the luxury car. “Mr. Wang…” He suddenly backed the car out of the parking space and slammed on the gas pedal.
“What’s the situation on the internet now?” Xing Conglian wasn’t following Wang Chao’s line of thinking at all.
“Isn’t it still crazy from yesterday to today?” Wang Chao leaned towards the door on the other side and insisted on keeping his distance from Lu Xu.
Although the speed at which the car was going was a bit crazy and there was a time limit, Xing Conglian was still calm and relaxed. He rolled down the car window, lit a cigarette, and said to Wang Chao, “When you report to your boss, it’s best to be specific.”
“I—I—” Wang Chao suddenly blushed and quickly admitted his mistake. “Sorry, Captain. So far in 20 minutes, the ‘Report on the Xu Ran incident’ has received 3,000+ retweets and 700+ comments. Online comments are still roughly divided into two factions. Although there are signs of an increase in netizens who suspect that there’s something wrong with Li Jingtian, they are still overwhelmed by the vast number of fan comments. Li Jingtian’s fans are organized and planned to get people to give praise and attention to any comments that support Li Jingtian, pushing them to the forefront. They also are saying Xu Ran’s death was completely an accident during the police pursuit of a suspect and has nothing to do with the behavior of the fans… and…” Wang Chao paused for a moment before hesitating to speak.
“And what?” Xing Conglian asked impatiently.
“And, the hot comments are all conspiracy theories saying someone ordered the police to frame their idol and that the police are instructing others to target Li Jingtian all along.”
“Huh, the eyes of onlookers are indeed discerning.” Xing Conglian lamented.
Although Wang Chao was only summarizing, the online remarks would obviously be more heated than what he summed up. Of course, fans would continue to bite others in order to protect their idol, and they have less than six hours.
Lu Xu pulled on his seatbelt, looked at the scenery outside the elevated road, and suddenly said, “Captain, this road is going to Tianqing Lake. You—you just asked me where Mu Zhuo is. Are you really going to search for him?”
“Why? Does Mr. Lu have any objections?”
“I wouldn’t dare!”
Lin Chen raised his eyes and looked at the rearview mirror to where Lu Xu was sitting with an uncertain gaze.
“Mr. Lu, do you have any other clues that you want to provide to the police?” Lin Chen suddenly asked.
“Oh, it’s not that I have a clue. I’m just worried about the captain!” Lu Xu leaned forward and said very doggedly, “Based on what I just heard, you plan to fight with Li Jingtian. In this case, if you go to Mu Zhuo, CA Entertainment may not be happy about it…”
Xing Conglian held his cigarette and asked with a smile, “Whether they are happy or not, what does that have to do with me?”
“This… still has something to do with you.” Lu Xu acted like a loyal dog. “CA Entertainment isn’t like other entertainment companies. In fact, compared to them, CA Entertainment is much more powerful.”
“Mr. Lu, can you please speak clearly?” Xing Conglian dusted off the soot from his cigarette as he asked.
“CA is a veteran in the entertainment empire. For an entertainment company, what they are known for best is to make stars, right?” Lu Xu swallowed and continued, “But what is the essence of making a star? Isn’t it spreading layers upon layers of communication? Let a person or thing become popular—even the bad ones can be good for you. And CA is best at hyping and manipulating public opinion, and they have a very good relationship with the media that they could make an ugly monster reach the top 100 voted most handsome male stars. If you want to go head-to-head with CA, that’s like hitting a stone with an egg*.”
*(以卵击石) Metaphor for underestimating one’s own strength leading to self-destruction.
“They’re that powerful?” Xing Conglian seemed to have thought of something as he replied casually.
“More than that. Didn’t you just say that those fans on the internet are desperately attacking the police… CA must be involved. I know, you have been investigating Xu Ran’s case, but honestly, a beast like Li Jingtian can be whitewashed*, like now. See, his fans are still loyal to him. Isn’t it quite amazing the efforts that CA has put in?” When he said the worst beast, Lu Xu gritted his teeth.
*In terms of the entertainment industry, whitewashing is deliberately misleading people in various ways, causing them to forget a celebrity’s bad past.
“According to Mr. Lu, CA Entertainment is really scary,” Xing Conglian said.
In fact, from the start, a large-scale cleansing of online public opinion on the Li Jingtian incident wasn’t something an individual could do. It wasn’t surprising that there was a large company behind it.
Suddenly, Lin Chen heard Xing Conglian ask, “Consultant Lin, can someone who confounds black and white* remain invincible in public opinion forever?”
*(颠倒黑白) Metaphor for distorting facts and confuses right and wrong.
Lin Chen thought for a bit and replied, “This involves the issue of communication. Although in theory, there’s no possibility of manipulating every public opinion by 100%, it’s still possible to guarantee an approval rating of more than 70% if done properly.”
“Then wouldn’t this be a good time for us to find Mu Zho?”
“Indeed,” Lin Chen replied.
The person who asked was Wang Chao, so Lin Chen answered patiently. “The reason is simple. Now that Li Jingtian is planning to leave China, either Li Jingtian or CA Entertainment will have to find a proper reason for this matter in order to avoid looking guilty. From current online public opinion, the reason is probably us.”
“What do you mean, A’Chen? What’s wrong with us?”
“Let’s find Mu Zhuo and ask about Song Shengsheng. If I were CA Entertainment, I would probably realize that we have hit a dead end regarding Xu Ran’s case, so we now want to overturn an old case and crucify Li Jingtian. For this kind of established entertainment company, how can such a good opportunity not be used?”
“’Hongjing police persecuted a well-known singer in Xinni. The singer was forced to return to his country after being overwhelmed by humiliation’. Mr. Wang, what do you think of this headline?” Xing Conglian added another knife.
Wang Chao took a deep breath. “Fuck, shameless!”
“Cut the crap.” Xing Conglian pressed out the cigarette butt and solemnly asked, “What about the ‘ordering’ software? Is there any trace of usage on Li Jingtian’s phone?”
Wang Chao frowned and shook his head. “There may be traces of installation and deletion, but I still don’t know. If Li Jingtian’s phone is in my hands, I can restore the data, but I don’t have it.”
He looked annoyed, as if he wished he could travel back a day ago. If he could have completely restored the data on Li Jingtian’s phone at that time, they would probably be sitting in the police station drinking tea underneath the blowing air conditioning by now.
But perhaps there was some unknown reason that made them have to see Mu Zhuo, and this in itself was Xu Ran’s wish.
In fact, before meeting Mu Zhuo, Lin Chen still didn’t understand the meaning of such an arrangement.
The time was 9:10 a.m. on May 7th and the location was on the outskirts of Fengchun, on the banks of Tianqing Lake.
Because of the music festival, a magnificent steel stage was built on the vast grassland by the lake. From a distance, there was an inexplicable sense of awe.
There were music fans stationed on the grass who had come to camp early. They had set up an outing. Some were playing cards, others were chatting, and some were heavily asleep, most likely hungover, but most people in the venue were happy men and women. They were laughing or singing and dancing for self-entertainment, making it seem like this place had become paradise.
There were also some small booths that were selling souvenirs outside the venue. Because it wasn’t time for the performance, the booths selling support gear were half-closed.
Wang Chao walked there curiously and stood in front of a booth. He looked up at the two cartoon characters hugging each other printed on the banner and then became dumbfounded.
Lin Chen also raised his head. If he guessed correctly, the two villains hugging each other are Li Jingtian and Mu Zhuo. In addition, the cartoon avatars were encircled by a heart, and the words “T&M” and “Forever Illi” were marked at the bottom. Although they didn’t know much about current pop culture, it was obvious that this should be something like a fan CP*.
*Couple. You can think of them as “shippers” who pair up two people (usually celebrities or fictional characters) whom they imagine are in a relationship.
“What the hell? Didn’t Illi dissolve long ago?” Wang Chao asked incredulously. “Is this Mu Zhuo’s and Li Jingtian’s gay booth?”
Lin Chen didn’t have time to cover the teenager’s mouth.
A girl who was dozing off in the booth heard this and suddenly woke up. She glared at them with a strange look.
“Sorry.” Lin Chen nodded to the other party and apologized.
He wanted to pull Wang Chao away, but the girl in the booth jumped up excitedly and shouted, “Wait!”
Wang Chao looked strangely back and saw the girl pick up a brochure at the booth, run up to them, and stuff it into his hands. “Young man, you have a good eye. I’ll give this to you. I hope you study hard!”
After the girl finished speaking, she patted Wang Chao on the shoulder.
It was probably the first time he met someone who was more into 2D than himself. The strangeness in his eyes turned into horror. He looked down at the brochure in his hand, neither tossing it nor reading it.
“Hey, what’s that?” Xing Conglian casually took the brochure from Wang Chao and then flipped through a few pages. Sure enough, his eyes also changed. “What kind of relationship do Mu Zhuo and Li Jingtian have?” he asked.
“Isn’t it cute! So cute! Isn’t TianMu so cute*?!” The girl jumped up and asked enthusiastically.
*Clarity: She’s saying isn’t it meng (moe). TianMu = Li Jingtian x Mu Zhuo.
“Of course it’s cute.” Xing Conglian didn’t even know what “TianMu” was, but he lied smoothly.
“Ah, you’re the legendary Uncle Fan.” Upon hearing this, the little girl happily grabbed Xing Conglian’s hand and didn’t let go.
“Yeah, he has liked these two for a long time, since they were in Illi,” Lin Chen seriously lied for Xing Conglian.
“Oh my, you still like Illi. That’s great! It’s really rare to see such a discerning straight guy! Well, this year is Illi’s 10th anniversary, so maybe we can still expect Jingtian and A’Mu to make a comeback on the same stage, but now that Jingtian is in such big trouble, they may not have the opportunity to go on stage together again. It’s a pity.”
The little girl chattered nonstop. From her words, Lin Chen knew that Mu Zhuo and Li Jingtian had a very good relationship and often went out together, especially after Mu Zhuo was sexually assaulted by Song Shengsheng. Li Jingtian gave him great support. Their friendship had thus been maintained to the present.
Naturally, the public liked this kind of story about relying on and supporting each other to overcome difficulties together. This also made the fan groups of Li Jingtian and Mu Zhuo overlap a lot because their popularity complemented each other. Although the group disbanded, their performances after flying solo were much better than when they debuted.
Listening to what the fan was saying was far more useful than looking for hours of information elsewhere.
“It seems that CA is quite powerful. It’s rare for individuals to develop so well after their group disbanded.” Xing Conglian was dragged by the little girl for a long time before he finally managed to break free. He yawned and looked around. On the empty stage, there were only sporadic staffers debugging equipment. “Mu Zhuo is really dedicated. Didn’t he perform late yesterday and now he’s rehearsing?”
“This is what makes CA so great. Artists have the same working hours as employees and they need to be strictly followed,” Lu Xu said.
Xing Conglian smiled. “A company with strict rules—we generally call them a criminal syndicate.”
Lu Xu only nodded and smiled bitterly.
“Then please tell Mr. Lu, where are we going to find Mu Zhuo?”
“You’re too polite. What are you talking about?” Lu Xu hurriedly answered. “I’ve already called ahead and asked about it. Mu Zhuo is backstage right now, but there’ll be rehearsal soon.”
Before his voice fell, the lights on stage in the distance began to change, and after a cluster of violent, intense flashing lights, a person who they had only seen in advertisements so far suddenly appeared on stage.
Mu Zhuo was nearly 30, but he still looked like a young man. He had blond hair and a tender face. Although he was wearing plain clothes, he had infinite charm when he was holding the microphone.
The sound wasn’t turned on, so Mu Zhuo just walked around holding the microphone with his backup dancers. On the huge, elevated stage, he was as small as an ant, but such a small ant seemed to cast a spell over the audience.
The fans on the lawn also noticed him on stage and started cheering. Even if they couldn’t hear any sound, they were as excited as if they were listening to a real concert.
From start to finish, the cheers swept across the lawn without pause.
At the end of the rehearsal, Mu Zhuo stood panting on stage. The weather was hot, and he was sweating profusely. He seemed a little tired. At this moment, Mu Zhuo’s hand couldn’t help but grip the microphone tightly. Then, his finger began to gently scratch on the microphone’s non-slip sleeve, again and again. After a certain moment, he couldn’t help but close his eyes.
Mu Zhuo’s action was very brief, but Lin Chen saw all this clearly. He looked at Xing Conglian, and like countless times of tacit understanding, Xing Conglian was also looking at him.
“What’s wrong with this?” Xing Conglian asked.
For a while, Lin Chen couldn’t answer Xing Conglian’s question, but the scene in front of him reminded him of many things. “Did Wang Chao bring a bug?” He suddenly asked Xing Conglian rhetorically.
When they looked at the stage again, Mu Zhuo was already laughing and joking with the dancers as he walked down the steps. When he was with his dancers, he didn’t have any celebrity status and was acting as if he were the normal boy-next-door.
Although they had previously lamented how powerful CA Entertainment was, seeing the stars from CA revealed how strict and regular their training system was. Even Li Jingtian or Mu Zhuo were really different from those high-strung little stars.
Furthermore, such a system was evident not only in artist training but also in internal management.
Backstage security was extremely strict. If they didn’t have a “traitor” like Lu Xu, it would have taken a lot of effort for them to see Mu Zhuo.
Mu Zhuo looked like he was in excellent spirits. He had a ruddy complexion. He was drinking water at the moment after he just got off the stage. When he saw them enter his dressing room, he even winked at them.
“Manager Li?” Mu Zhuo politely put down the water cup and greeted Lu Xu. “You had free time to come here?”
Although Mu Zhuo responded well, the attitude of the manager in the lounge wasn’t as polite. “Manager Li, isn’t it clearly stated in the company’s regulations that you shouldn’t bring strangers casually in and out of the backstage?”
Unphased, since Lu Xu was a veteran at dealing with this kind of manager, he said, “What’s with your attitude? See these three? They are all police officers and came to Mu Zhuo to ask some questions.”
“What questions?” The manager instantly became vigilant.
It was probably because the role of a manger was like a lioness protecting her calf. Whether it was Liu Ying or Mu Zhuo’s manager, after hearing their identities, they stopped in front of Mu Zhuo and told them to leave immediately.
“I want to ask Mr. Mu Zhuo something about Mr. Li Jingtian.”
Lin Chen took a step forward, raised his eyes, and took a close look at this flamboyant and unbridled rock and roll youth.
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