The officers immediately reacted by aiming their guns in the same direction. Across the restaurant, in the shadows behind a street lamp, a middle-aged man in a leather jacket slowly emerged, holding his hands in the air.
The sight of his face struck me like a bolt from the blue. "It's you!" I shouted, eyes widening in shock.
Still with the same distinct temperament, this man was the antique dealer whom I met in Qinglian County. "I should’ve known he was up to no good!" Xiaotao spat through gritted teeth.
The middle-aged man laughed, "Can’t we have a nice chat? Put down your guns, won’t you?"
Naturally, his presence at such a bloody massacre wasn’t a good sign. "Why are you here?" I coldly demanded.
"I was really just passing by," came his nonchalant reply.
"You’re lying!" I sneered.
The man did a double-take. "You actually have Cave Vision?"
Bang! A resounding gunshot brought us to attention. I first assumed it was Xiaotao but upon turning back, I found Director-General Cheng with his gun pointed at the night sky, smoke around the muzzle. The series of events tonight had already driven the otherwise gentle man past the point of patience.
"You better tell us the truth,” he growled. “We don't have much patience dealing with criminals."
But the middle-aged man was unfazed by his threat. "All right, this guy has better eyes than a lie detector,” he conceded. “Well, I might as well come clean. I swear every single word I’m about to tell you is the truth. Listen up! The reason why I’m here is the same as you. I’m looking for something. Here’s a word of advice–what you’re dealing with is beyond the scope of scientific explanation. Don’t bother investigating any longer, or more people will die!"
"Are you threatening the police?" challenged Director-General Cheng, his voice laced with anger.
The middle-aged man shrugged slightly and fixed a steady gaze on me. "You can ask him if I’m telling the truth."
At this point, it was impossible to judge if he was an excellent liar or actually telling the truth. Despite my reservations, I nodded, "He’s telling the truth."
Perhaps he was privy to inside information not known to the police. "What are you looking for in Nanjiang City?" I asked.
"I’m a dealer in yin objects and I’m searching for something," he admitted.
Yin objects? Wasn’t this mentioned in some novel Dali was reading? It seemed the Wealth Beckoning Cat spirit I came into contact with before could also be regarded as a Yin object.
"So a Yin object is an artifact that can kill by supernatural means?" I asked.
"Yin objects are usually old items with spirits attached to them. Generally speaking, they are antiques. In my professional field, a Yin object that can cause mass murders is a terrible killing device, which is why I had to intervene in this matter!"
"What great professional ethics,” mocked Xiaotao. “Your lies are starting to get ridiculous!"
However, from my constant observation using Cave Vision, I was certain he was telling the truth. Although I wasn’t an atheist, the existence of such objects were beyond belief. "Do you mean to say that someone is using a Yin object to kill?"
"You can think of it that way,” he acquiesced. “Please have faith in me. I have my own means of solving the matter."
"We don't believe you at all!” snorted Director-General Cheng. “You’re coming back to the station with us to explain the matter clearly."
The middle-aged man held out a hand, his actions putting us all on alert at once. "Sorry, no can do," he snickered.
"That’s not up to you!" declared Director-General Cheng.
Two SWAT officers decked in their full gear walked up to handcuff the man. "I’ve always been a law-abiding citizen,” he said, stepping backwards. “So I don't want to have to hurt an officer. But if you’re thinking of restricting my personal freedom, don't blame me for being rude!"
"As if you have the ability," scoffed Xiaotao.
“Well, goodbye then!” The middle-aged man cupped his fist.
His lips quivered as if he were reading some sort of incantation, and with that, he disappeared from our sight. His move caught us off-guard but seeing was believing. Did the man have superpowers?
Right then, Song Xingchen dashed off in the direction of the man’s disappearance and sliced his sword in a downward motion. Sparks flew as metal clashed against metal. The middle-aged man appeared in place again, a dagger in each hand crossed together to block Song Xingchen’s Tang Sword.
It was a vanishing technique.
Back in the Republic of China, there were supposedly such diversion techniques throughout the Jianghu. In today’s age, these tricks were completely inconceivable and could not be explained by the laws of physics. For example, the goldfish trick during the Spring Festival Gala in 2011 must have also employed such deceptive techniques.
The man fought against Song Xingchen, his body agile despite his age. By the looks of it, his skills had been acquired through many battles. Thus far, I hadn't seen anyone who could match Song Xingchen yet, and the man didn’t seem like he was taking the fight seriously. Instead, his moves suggested he was eager to get away, not hurt his opponent.
All of a sudden, Song Xingchen leapt backwards in a graceful arch, sword cutting through the air where another burst of sparks appeared.
"Your skills are half decent," remarked the man.
Song Xingchen swung his sword sideways, his voice filled with disapproval, "You lowlife! Using flying needles to launch a sneak attack!"
Flying needles? I hadn’t seen a thing!
"If I really wanted to hurt you, do you think you’d still be standing?"
A few fallen leaves floated down to his head and flew towards us as if strung together by something. Dumbfounded, we watched as the leaves were nailed to the wall and slowly drifted down to the ground. My eyes keenly caught a cold gleam in the air.
The middle-aged man waved his hands dismissively, "This time it’s really goodbye!"
He was about to run when Director-General Cheng motioned for the SWAT team to move into action. The SWAT officers charged towards him and abruptly stopped a few meters away when they suddenly screamed and struggled. "Snakes, so many snakes!" some shouted, while others cried, "Help! I'm on fire!"
The surrounding officers were distracted by their outburst, and in the blink of an eye, the middle-aged man had disappeared. Right before he left, I caught a glimpse of what might have been a white fox sitting on his shoulder.
The effects of the diversion technique used to torture these SWAT officers soon dispersed, leaving these men unharmed. I chewed my lower lip in consternation at the man’s unfathomable skills and origin. However, my intuition told me that he wasn’t the murderer. With his mysterious methods, I suspected he wouldn’t have left the crime scene in such chaos.
Unreconciled with the man’s disappearance, Director-General Cheng wanted to go after him but both Song Xingchen and I reached out to stop him at the same time. "Let him go,” I said. “He’s not the murderer."
"Even if that’s the case, he must know something!" argued Director-General Cheng.
With his set of unique techniques, the man was most likely too arrogant to stoop down to working with the police. Chasing after him would only be a waste of our time and effort. "Let’s investigate the crime scene first," I suggested.
We walked into the restaurant and were immediately surrounded by the dead bodies of customers who had committed suicide. Their methods, though equally gruesome, were varied with some customers inserting chopsticks into their eyes and knives down their throats while a waiter hung himself from his own belt at the kitchen door, his entire tongue sticking out from his open mouth. The chefs lay on the ground, throats slit open with a sharp weapon, and in the restroom, a man flopped over the toilet, his stomach having ruptured into a nauseating mess from chugging down too much detergent. The nightmarish scene was almost too much to bear, causing many young officers to throw up their dinners.
When Director-General Cheng found the family of four sitting around a table, he dropped to his knees, desolate sobs spilling from his lips as a wave of sorrow washed through his being. Some time later, he swore, "I will bring the murderer to justice!"
I noticed that most of the victims had committed suicide by injuring their heads, their postures suggesting they wanted to "dig" something out of their brains. I couldn’t help but recall Officer Niu’s strange symptoms before his death–the mysterious voice in his head and the persistent headaches.
The murderer intended to kill the family of four but ended up involving an entire restaurant of people. If Yin objects were to be believed, then the one in question must function within a range and cannot be directed at a certain target.
Additionally, no odors or other traces were left at the scene, so this Yin object was most likely a musical instrument!Previous Chapter Next Chapter