The next day around noon, Lazy Three who still had a headache from his hangover was dragged to the basement by Sis Wang. She needed to grab something there but as a woman from the countryside, she was superstitious and firmly believed an evil spirit had been responsible for the case. Therefore, she didn’t dare go by herself despite it being the middle of the day.
As she put it: “Men have more abundant yang energy.”
Lazy Three had no choice but to accompany her to the basement. But the closer they got, the more his hairs stood up. He wanted to leave immediately but did not. He didn’t want others to say he wasn’t even a man. More importantly, he had lived in this place for half his life. There had never been any supernatural occurrences. He refused to believe something ghoulish would appear for no reason. This place was also his means of living and nothing could happen to it. Even if something did happen, he had to deal with it right away.
There had been a light in the hallway to the basement, but it hadn’t been replaced after it broke. However, it was a sunny day so it was only a little murky.
Crash! A loud noise suddenly rang out, seeming even more startling in the emptiness. Lazy Three suffered a huge shock. Sis Wang who was walking in front also stumbled to a halt, making Lazy Three practically collide against her.
“What happened?” Lazy Three was a little annoyed. He realized the noise had come from Sis Wang dropping the ring of keys onto the floor. “Really, people get frightened to death by other people, not ghosts!”
“Door….door….” Sis Wang pointed straight ahead. She only said two words, her voice trembling. Her feet no longer moved.
Lazy Three looked over and saw that the door was open. There were a few pieces of joss paper scattered on the floor.
Ever since the police had investigated the scene and given the place back to him, he had kept this place locked. It was locked with several locks. Otherwise, Sis Wang wouldn’t have needed such a large chain of keys. However, the door was currently open without any marks of forced entry. The joss paper was even more inexplicable. His parents had passed away early and no one had died here in two decades.1 Where did the joss paper come from?
As he stood frozen, Sis Wang suddenly yelled out in understanding. She turned and ran, actually sending Lazy Three staggering and almost falling.
For an instant he also wanted to run after her. Strangely however, he didn’t do so. It wasn’t clear what he was thinking. Perhaps it was an inexplicable attraction that made him slowly approach.
He had just reached the door when he sensed something shadowy swaying there. A slow creaking could be heard, making Lazy Three’s legs grow weak. He almost sank to the floor.
Cold sweat dripped and he didn’t know whether he should run or go inside to take a proper look. He remained frozen there for a long while. The shadow and the sound echoed persistently within the room, rhythmically, steadily, unhurriedly. It didn’t seem like it would stop and nothing scary came out. His curiosity got the better of him.
There can’t be a ghost in the middle of the day!
Lazy Three kept this thought in mind as he slowly stuck his head out for a look.
The light from outside shone in from the old, narrow little window. Because it passed through the dirty patterned glass, the light that came in was extremely dim, giving the room a musty air. A ray of light happened to shine upon the bed were the murder occurred. Someone was lying there at this moment covered in the thick blankets, unmoving. Only the head was exposed and as still as the dead.
Or perhaps it was truly the dead.
Furthermore, the room’s sturdy, outdated ceiling fan was actually turned on in the middle of winter. It spun slowly, and was the source of the swaying shadow and creaking.
Or rather, the source was the naked girl hanging upon the fan.
When Lazy Three looked up, the girl hanging there happened to revolve around so she was facing him. He immediately recognized the girl he had encountered by the stairs last night.
At this moment, her face was bruised and blackened. She bled from her seven apertures and her tongue was extended. Her eyes bulged as they glared at the person who had come!
Lazy Three sucked in a cold breath and scrambled out. He no longer cared about his manly image or his inn’s reputation. He screamed loudly: “There’s been another murder! Someone has died again!”
This time the police arrived at noon so there were even more spectators. However, no one could get any information. They only saw Lazy Three sitting sluggishly on the bench in front of the small flowerbed muttering to himself. “What good buddies did I provoke? Why are they harming me so? They’re purposefully cutting off my means of living! What a tragedy…what a tragedy…” It wasn’t clear if he was referring to himself or the victims.
No matter what, his inn wouldn’t be open for a while. The police now had another pressing case on their hands. The investigation into the closed-room murder had gone nowhere. Although the setup wasn’t as “skillful” this time, there was still no evidence left behind.
The girl this time had also engaged in sexual activity prior to her death. It was also not rape, but rather with her boyfriend. However, she was also naked when she died and her body was covered with bruises in the shape of small, irregular handprints. She had died from suffocation and terror as before. The process of suffocation was clearer than the last case. She had been hanged alive.
The boy lying in bed was covered by the blanket. Although they figured the scene underneath would be horrifying and disgusting, they still didn’t expect to see what they found: the boy had been dissected. His entire chest had been opened up and his organs were completely rearranged. He had been bled dry, his blood soaking the thick mattress.
Had they been murdered at the same time or one after the other? Why did none of the five people upstairs hear any cries for help? Why were there no signs of struggle? Why the perverse actions towards the female victim but without any rape? The lock on the door showed no signs of being forced. And what was going on with the joss paper? Was someone purposefully trying to stir the imagination or was there some other meaning?
The scene made it seem like this was a serial murder, but there weren’t any suspects. It also wasn’t clear why the murderer chose young couples at this inn as the targets.
These two cases weren’t just savage, they were perverse!
“I feel this is the work of some sociopath.” A police officer said during the investigation’s meeting.
“But the small size of those handprints must also be considered. It would mean the perpetrator’s strength does not match a normal person’s.” Another said.
“Also, where is the murder weapon for the second case? Why isn’t there the slightest evidence? There is no such thing as the perfect murder in this world!” Someone else said.
“It essentially isn’t humanly possible!” This was their initial conclusion after considering what they had on hand.
In the end, the case remained once again unresolved. Winter vacation and the New Year came one after the other but the love motel didn’t open again during these two months.
After the New Year, Xiao Xia received a new task. One of the city’s major corporations, the Everplenty Group, needed some legal affairs handled at their subsidiary in City A. They weren’t willing to hire a local lawyer whom they felt might be unreliable, and thus asked the Vast Sky law firm to assign a lawyer there for two months as legal representative and consultant.
The Everplenty Group was one of the Vast Sky law firm’s regular clients. Of course they couldn’t be refused. The firm’s lawyers were all either busy with important cases or had families they couldn’t leave behind. Therefore, the solitary “marginalized person” Yue Xiao Xia undertook this assignment.
“The job is very simple but the pay is pretty good. You’ve only been taking criminal cases recently so it’s a good chance to relax and do some sightseeing. I hear City A has some good natural scenery and cultural places.” The director said.
Xiao Xia nodded.
She wasn’t against this assignment. It truly was relatively easy work. Although the others would once again say that the director was being biased towards someone lagging like her, she was prepared to accept it.
She had just wanted to travel abroad to get away from her worries and adjust her emotions. When such a good opportunity fell upon her head, she naturally accepted without hesitation. It wasn’t her fault her dumb luck had always been good!
Two months had passed since the events around Christmas. She still felt extremely awkward and didn’t dare stop by the Nocturnal Revenant.
Only after mustering up her courage and vaguely declaring her feelings did she find out he had always just viewed her as a friend. Being friends was fine. She just had to bury her feelings in her heart. It’s just a crush, what’s the big deal? Think about it. Liking someone without that person knowing. Isn’t it romantic? Just because she liked someone doesn’t mean that person was obligated to reciprocate. She understood this reasoning, and could also accept it. But that misunderstanding had been too embarrassing. She could only hope he hadn’t understood her meaning. She would feel better that way.
But he was so smart and sharp. How could he not have understood!?
This thought lingered in Xiao Xia’s mind, making her avoid everything to do with Ruan Zhan as though she had a guilty conscience. However, she really wanted to see him. She really wanted to see those occasionally distant yet occasionally gentle eyes.
She got home and was packing the things for her trip when her phone rang. Looking at the number, her heart almost leapt out of her chest. It was the Nocturnal Revenant’s number.
She anxiously took several deep breaths before picking up, but the voice on the other end made her relax once again.
It was the Nocturnal Revenant’s servers, Liu Tie and Ni Yang. Due to the winter holidays, they had gone back home for a period. During this time, Ruan Zhan had hired some local college students as temporary servers. Once the holiday period was over, he had subbed the two back in.
The moment they returned, they made a fuss about wanting to see big sis Xiao Xia. However, since they had class and Xiao Xia had work during the day, they could only ask her to come to the bar to meet them.
Hearing Xiao Xia’s unconvincing excuses, the glib Ni Yang said: “That won’t do sis Xiao Xia, you have to come. I’ve brought some local specialties from my hometown for you. If you don’t come, my poor little heart’s going to suffer a blow.”
“Also, also…” Liu Tie snatched the phone over. “I’ve had a crush on sis Xiao Xia for so many years. Shouldn’t you at least come soothe my yearning!?”
Xiao Xia started laughing. She was really helpless against these two!
Ni Yang had always been talkative. Liu Tie used to be a little shy. After becoming taciturn for a period of time following the Bloody Mary case, he had become lively and cheerful for some reason.
Wan Li called it excavating the inner personality.
Unable to withstand their pestering, Xiao Xia finally agreed. In her heart, the person she wanted to go see was someone else. That person who made her unable to sit still. After all, she was going to City A for business and would be so far from him. However, she lied to herself and said she was being forced by those two youngsters.
As Wan Li said: people loved lying to themselves because it was even easier than lying to others.