Chapter 27: The Emperor’s New Clothes

Cheng Xi’s hand was very warm. Warm and soft, a completely different feeling from his tea pet.

Lu Chenzhou grabbed his own hand and put it down. Throughout the whole process, Cheng Xi didn’t even realize that Lu Chenzhou had ‘gently’ caressed her. She even felt somewhat bad that she had touched her patient like that, laughing awkwardly and saying, “Sorry to offend you. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

Lu Chenzhou answered suavely with a nonverbal grunt.

Cheng Xi asked Lu Chenzhou about his sincere thoughts. “I think that the townsfolk are acting very strangely. Chen Jiaman hasn’t done anything particularly vicious or evil besides the incident with her grandmother, but from start to finish, I haven’t heard a single word of pity or regret for her.”

Lu Chenzhou wasn’t paying much attention to her question. He lowered his head to look at his fingertips, which seemed to possess remnants of the softness and fineness that he had felt earlier. Lightly stroking them, he put his hand to his nose and sniffed. Upon raising his head, he found that Cheng Xi was staring at him, eyes wide.

Lu Chenzhou sat up straight, put down his hand, and with his face unflinching, said, “How smelly!”

"……"

She instantly understood the phrase she had heard on the Internet, ‘smiling on the outside and looking down disdainfully on the inside.’ Even though she knew that Lu Chenzhou couldn’t be understood through normal means and that he couldn’t be simply asked to behave like a regular person, but after she had washed her hair and bathed three times, almost rubbing an entire layer of skin off of her body, for her to still hear such an evaluation, it really…...made her heart clench!

She struggled to maintain her disposition, only able to awkwardly apologize again. “Sorry for disgusting you with my smell.”

Lu Chenzhou grunted once again.

"……"

His responses really made her want to hit him. She took a deep breath, firmly deciding not to make life difficult for herself. “Hm, I think that this will only be harder with three people. Given how busy you are, why don’t you go back first? I can take the car here myself tomorrow.”

Unfortunately, her suggestions to him were always viewed as useless words. Lu Chenzhou got out of the car and nonchalantly said, “Let’s go.”

“Go… go where?”

He turned his head around, expression grave and stern. “Didn’t you want to investigate some more?”

“...I’m scared of disgusting you with my smell again.”

“No problem,” Lu Chenzhou said lightly. “Since you said that the nature of clean freaks is to like dirty things, I’ve decided to give it a try.”

"……"

It was often said that, when doctors had to treat intelligent patients, or when police encountered intelligent criminals, they often ended up scratching their heads. This was because, from just a moment of inattention, these intelligent people would entrap you in their routine.

But Lu Chenzhou’s words were much more problematic than that. Put in a different way, it sounded as if he were confessing to her that he would like to try her out.

Unintentional words often held a grain of truth in them, but at this moment, neither Cheng Xi nor Lu Chenzhou had realized it yet.

Cheng Xi was more or less an easygoing person, so despite her suggestion being rejected by Lu Chenzhou, she wouldn’t stop him from coming along if he insisted.

Thus, the two of them left the hotel and returned to the school. This time, Cheng Xi had prepared herself adequately; in order to avoid being drenched with foul water again, she was wearing a hat and a scarf now, covering herself up from head to toe. The little town’s resources were limited and her clothes were of average quality, so she seemed quite inconspicuous.

As for Lu Chenzhou, well, he simply decided to not walk with her. By the time they got there, the restaurant had already closed, and it was about when school was out. The traffic on the road and streets had increased suddenly, and little stalls had also popped up by the roadside near the school.

At once, the smell of food and the dust brought about by the traffic mingled through the air. Lu Chenzhou had stopped far from the scene and was frowning at the sight, almost as if he were watching a horror flick set in another dimension.

Cheng Xi didn’t force him and walked slowly forward alone. From Lu Chenzhou’s viewpoint, she seemed like a strange auntie. She was waving around a piece of ham sausage and twisting and turning around, sometimes drawing close to one or two lone children. She knew to pick out the older children, but she still had little luck in her endeavors.

When most of the crowd had dispersed, she walked back toward him, expression dejected.

Lu Chenzhou raised his eyebrows.

Cheng Xi said, “No luck. Most of the children don’t remember her, or even if they have heard of her name, they only have a superficial impression of her. Either she’s a murderer or a crazy person.”

As expected. “Are you going to keep trying?”

“Yes, we have to at least try.” She didn’t have much vacation time accrued, so given that the hospital had given her a small ‘vacation,’ she had to make the most of it before going back and facing Chen Jiaman. “Staying here for a night is just like a vacation, even if we’re not able to find anything out.”

At least she’s very mentally healthy. Lu Chenzhou didn’t say anything, his gaze stopping on the remaining ham sausage in her hand.

The ham sausage looked somewhat evil, but it also smelled surprisingly good.

Cheng Xi immediately realized what was on his mind. “Are you hungry?” Her palm lightly touched the ham sausage. “It isn’t tasty if it’s cold. Since everyone’s about to have dinner, we can’t investigate right now either. Why don’t we find a place to eat too?”

As she said this, she threw the ham sausage away and took out her phone. She asked some friends, “I’m at … Does anyone know if there’s a clean, sanitary, decent place to eat around here?”

It turned out that one of her classmates did know a good place nearby; he had been a safety engineer who had worked in the region for a decent amount of time, and was relatively familiar with the place.

He sent over the name of a restaurant, which Cheng Xi searched up on her phone. It was a small agricultural restaurant, not too far from Chen Jiaman’s home.

“What do you think?” she asked as she held out her phone to Lu Chenzhou’s face.

Lu Chenzhou glanced at it for a moment, seemingly uncaring. “Do as you like.”

……That was the most annoying answer to give when two people were trying to decide where to eat, because those who said they were fine with anything were usually the hardest to satisfy. Cheng Xi sighed, deciding that she needed another person to deal with Lu Chenzhou. She then said, “Let’s call Mr. Chen over as well.”

Mr. Chen was Lu Chenzhou’s chauffeur.

And Lu Chenzhou said, “No, he already has plans.”

So it’ll only be the two of them, and she would have to pamper him? Cheng Xi very much wanted to refuse, but after thinking about how he had come so far accompanying her, she relented. Fine, she would pamper him in order to understand him better as a patient.

Cheng Xi quickly dispelled her mental block, and the two drove over to that restaurant. Honestly, the scale of the place was larger than Cheng Xi expected, and the service they received was surprisingly good. Lu Chenzhou requested a new, never-before-used plate, which they procured rapidly.

It was just that the dishes themselves weren’t great. Lu Chenzhou clearly didn’t enjoy the food very much, and only ate a small portion of each dish. Cheng Xi was quite embarrassed, resolving once again to finish her investigations early so that they could return by nightfall.

After having dinner, they went back to the newly renovated plaza. Apparently, it was very crowded at night: parents brought their children out here to have fun, some people danced, and others played ball.

Cheng Xi didn’t know whether to call her luck good or bad, because even though the plaza wasn’t particularly big nor particularly small, she still managed to run into someone she recognized—Chen Jiaman’s middle school math teacher.

And the math teacher even recognized her first, running over to greet her. “Ah, Lawyer Cheng? You’re still here?”

Cheng Xi hesitated for a moment before recovering with a smile, and then pointed at Lu Chenzhou, who was by her side. “Yes, I saw that the environment here seemed pretty nice, so I’ve been staying in the area with my boyfriend.”

Lu Chenzhou looked at them coolly, without any intention of playing along. Cheng Xi started sweating.

Luckily, the math teacher seemed to believe her, and even started pointing out the scenic areas around to her.

As they were talking, a four or five year old girl ran over and hugged his leg. “Daddy! I want to play with that.” As she spoke, she pointed at a thing that was jumping into the sky like a falling star. 

There were also toy stalls at the plaza, and Cheng Xi guessed that the little girl wanted to play with some kind of toy.

Following behind the little girl was a woman about the same age as Mr. Liu. Seeing the child behave the way she did, she stated somewhat angrily, “Ignore her. She wants everything that she sees. It won’t do for us to indulge her too much.”

Upon hearing this, the little girl began to cry and make a fuss, kicking and tearing at Mr. Liu’s feet.

Mr. Liu and his wife were unable to deal with their child’s fuss. Neither harsh words nor scolding seemed to be effective.

Cheng Xi couldn’t stand to watch any further, and helped them coax the little girl into calming down. “If you stop crying, this auntie will give you some candy, alright?” She retrieved a handful of sweets from her bag, holding it up in front of her.

The candies were wrapped beautifully in vibrant colors, and were quite eye-catching when she held them in her hand. The girl didn’t seem all that pacified, but she still quickly grabbed them from Cheng Xi’s palm. 

Her small hands couldn’t grab all of them, and a few dropped onto the ground. Cheng Xi helped the girl pick them up and put them in her clothes’ pockets, and even placed one into her mouth.

This sort of candy was cloyingly sweet, but the child seemed to like it, finally quieting down as she patted her pocket.

Mr. and Mrs. Liu were grateful for her assistance, and Cheng Xi waved her hands in embarrassment. “It was nothing.”

The little girl’s mother saw that she was pretty young, and asked, “Is your child in middle school?”

She thought that Cheng Xi was the parent of some kid from her husband’s class.

Cheng Xi shook her head. “No.” She then repeated what she had said in the morning. “I’m the court-appointed lawyer for Chen Jiaman’s case. Originally, I came here to investigate a few matters pertaining to the case, but after seeing that this place was pretty nice, I stayed for a few extra days to look around.”

“Oh, Chen Jiaman’s lawyer…” The little girl’s mother glanced at her husband before asking, “Isn’t she crazy? Does a crazy murderer need a lawyer too?”

“Yes. The main purpose is to verify whether or not Chen Jiaman’s mental illness is real.”

“It should be real. She was always running up that hill for some unknown reason, hiding in the graveyard at night. If she were normal, why would she do something like that?”

“Really? Did you know her?” Cheng Xi felt invigorated by the promising information. “Then do you know when Chen Jiaman started exhibiting such behavior?”

“Probably a year or two ago.”

“And in these last two years, did she encounter anything unusual?”

“Something unusual… I’m not sure…”

“I know.” Before she could finish, the little girl eating candy by the side crisply replied, “She was bullied by her classmates, and then she went crazy.”

“What are you saying!” Both the Lius reprimanded her at the same time. Mr. Liu even forsook his kind demeanor, pulling at the little girl’s arm harshly.

The little girl, shocked and frightened, dropped all of her candy onto the ground and started to cry again.

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