This case wasn’t completely over since the perpetrator was still at large. Xiaotao and I returned to the city bureau to continue the investigation. After several days of searching, a complaint came from a residential property reporting a rotten odor emanating from an apartment.
We rushed to the scene immediately, and upon opening the door, we were greeted by a room full of posters, CDs, photo albums, soft toys, and other memorabilia. The owner was a crazy fan of Yi Xi.
The smell of decay permeated the air. In the bedroom, a female corpse lay on the ground with grey skin, covered in fat maggots and bleeding from the mouth. Several officers rushed into the bathroom and vomited uncontrollably at the sight.
I lit the Snake Bone Incense I concocted some time ago and placed it in a small portable incense burner, fumigating the corpse for a short while. This incense had the effect of expelling insects. When it burned, it would coil up like a snake. Soon, maggots fell off the body one after another and the smell in the room dispersed slightly.
I began to examine the corpse. The deceased was below twenty-five years of age of medium build with long hair, and the time of death was about a week ago.
The corpse had already started to bloat. Upon opening her mouth, I laid my eyes on a horrific image! Her throat was filled with razor blades, her fingers covered in slight scratches. I didn’t think the Echolocation Rod was necessary. Before the girl died, she suffered heavy internal bleeding, microorganisms eventually feeding on the blood that had accumulated in her stomach. The gas expanded in her stomach, causing her abdomen to bulge like a balloon that would explode with the slightest poke.
I judged that the cause of death was esophageal rupture caused by the ingestion of the razor blades, resulting in hemorrhagic shock. There were no foreign fingerprints on the victim’s body. Combined with the other signs, I concluded that it was suicide.
"Song Yang, look at the cabinet!" Xiaotao said, patting my shoulder.
I looked up and saw a glass bottle with a severed penis soaked in some sort of chemical. I examined it before handing it over to Xiao Zhou for DNA testing. But in fact, we were already aware that this fanatical girl was Yi Xi’s murderer. Perhaps the guilt had gotten to her so she chose to end her life.
At this point, the case was officially solved!
The truth remained a secret between Xiaotao and I but we did make up a reasonable explanation which was enough to convince the others. Yi Xi was also cleared of the murder charge.
As soon as we closed the case, Xiaotao tidied up her desk and said, "Let’s go for a walk!"
"Alright!" I nodded.
We walked in the streets, lost in our mixed emotions in the silence. Right then, a Lincoln limousine stopped beside us and a bodyguard dressed in black got out of the car, politely saying, "Mr. Yi invites you onboard."
My eyes met Xiaotao’s in a look of bewilderment. There was only one Mike Zhou in the back with his driver and a bodyguard in front. He had removed his sunglasses and was dressed like the sunny boy next door.
"Haven't you left yet?" I asked.
Mike Zhou opened a bottle of Dom Perignon and poured me a glass. "I have an afternoon flight to Inner Mongolia. The filming may take several months."
"Looks like everything’s back on track," I snickered.
He nodded, "Before leaving, I thought it was necessary to meet you two and tell you about myself."
He swallowed the champagne in one gulp and began to narrate his story. His real name was Yi Xuebing while Yi Xi was named Yi Xuewen. Born a few minutes before Yi Xi, he was the older twin. Although they looked as if they had been carved from the same mold, their personalities were as different as day and night.
When they were children, their parents divorced and the brothers were separated, each following a parent. Mike Zhou had been particularly reckless from an early age, his school years filled with fighting and drugs. However, Yi Xi was a good boy who worked hard and made progress. His diligence got him into acting school. And little by little, he went from an obscure nobody to a superstar that attracted everyone’s attention.
Later on, Mike Zhou learned of the younger brother's existence. In order to squeeze some money out of his twin, he blackmailed Yi Xi, threatening to ruin his reputation by behaving badly outside.
The juxtaposition of their lives made him resentful. Clearly they were twins, yet their fates were complete opposites. So he planned to unleash his discontentment by retaliating against Yi Xi using such means. However, Yi Xi was so busy he couldn’t care less about matters outside of work.
This in turn dealt a heavy blow on Mike Zhou's self-esteem so he comforted himself, using Yi Xi's money to eat, drink and be merry.
Eventually, Mike Zhou was detained for taking drugs, and the blame fell onto the innocent Yi Xi. The company felt that Yi Xi’s reputation would only be tarnished if this went on. The higher ups came up with a plan to cultivate Mike Zhou into an artist, and use the twins to work under Yi Xi's name. This meant that “Yi Xi” now had 48 hours a day which would double their income and at the same time, restrain the unstable Mike Zhou.
When he heard that he was going to be a star, Mike Zhou was overjoyed at first. Then came the gruelling training–acting classes, dancing, singing and how to respond to the media. On average, he only had six hours of sleep and stuck to a strict diet of nutritious but disgusting meals just to maintain an attractive figure. In truth, life was hell.
Only then did he realize what kind of life Yi Xi had! His own experiences allowed him to empathize and understand his younger brother whom he thought was amazing!
However, it was too late to walk out of the situation. So the two started playing the same person, his life conforming entirely to Yi Xi’s likes, dislikes and habits down to the tiniest details. He ate only food that Yi Xi liked, copied Yi Xi’s gait and even had to undergo surgery so his lips and teeth looked exactly like Yi Xi’s. But even so, there were still occasional flaws in his act.
In fact, most of the negative rumors involving Yi Xi were caused by this troublesome brother of his, and each time, the company had to clean up after him.
Unsurprisingly, Mike Zhou was the one photographed by the paparazzi when he hooked up with the female star. In the end, the company had to come clean about their love affair to prevent his reputation from falling apart.
At that time, he never imagined that his reckless impulse would actually result in a fatal disaster for Yi Xi. On the day Yi Xi died, he felt as if the whole world had collapsed. No one knew the anguish he felt, crying in the dressing room while he fixed his makeup...
The cold-blooded company decided to hide Yi Xi's death for its own benefit, even ordering the disposal of the corpse.
But Mike Zhou couldn't live with that so he secretly got his agent Wu Xiucai to buy a cemetery plot. At the end of the concert the next day, he and his agent loaded his brother's body into the car for burial, but of course his name wouldn’t actually be inscribed on the tombstone. However, an unforeseen accident happened, prompting the resulting turn of events. Maybe all this was all fated!
When he was done speaking, Mike Zhou was already in tears. I handed him a paper towel. Wiping away his tears, he took out two bank cards from his pocket and said, "Here’s a little something for you two!"
"Hush money?" I asked.
"You can think of it as that,” he sighed. “Don't worry! The money I earned is clean."
Xiaotao refused, "I’m an officer of the law. I can’t accept your money."
Mike Zhou passed me both cards at once. "Mr. Song, you’re not a policeman. Please accept it!"
"If accepting the money puts you at ease, then alright,” I laughed. “Please donate it to the Hope Project in my name!"
"Fine,” he nodded. “I’ll make good use of the money in your name!"
"I still have one last question,” I added. “Do you still plan to live like this? You didn't sign a contract so you don't have to live like a puppet."
"My brother earned all of this through blood, sweat and tears,” he smiled sadly. “If I give up like this, he would have died for nothing."
"Why bother? In the end, the company benefits the most. The name Yi Xi is just a cash cow for them,” I said. “Are you going to pretend you’re Yi Xi for the rest of your life and lose all sense of existence forever?"
"Mr. Song, perhaps in your opinion, this path is very difficult. I used to think so too,” he admitted. “But have you ever felt what it’s like being held up high in the clouds? Everywhere I go, they scream and cheer for me. I'm used to living under the spotlight. It’s like air to my lungs, I can’t live without it. Now, all I am is a fake persona–Yi Xi!"
Heart heavy, I watched his lips curl into a contented yet morbid smile. Fame and profit were the most irresistible things in the world. One taste of these drug-like temptations and they could no longer extricate themselves even if it meant being on the guillotine where the blade could fall at any moment.
I had much to say but only one sentence left my lips, "Good luck, Mr. Yi!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter