Volume Four: The Murder Game
“The duty of a poet is not to describe what has happened, but to describe what could happen.” – Aristotle
After a night’s sleep, Lu Junchi woke up and went for his usual run around the neighborhood, completing two laps.
When he returned and took a shower, he realized he had been overly nervous. It was just a folded paper star, and the same kind of paper could be easily bought. These stars had been popular for a while, just as common as origami cranes.
All he found was a single star among miscellaneous items, perhaps accidentally placed there.
He couldn’t draw any conclusions based on just one star.
Moreover, he didn’t know how to approach Su Hui and what kind of answer he would hear if he asked…
Lu Junchi felt that he was overthinking things.
The past was in the past.
The poet was already dead.
He couldn’t let himself be trapped by those things from the past. Life moves forward, and now that everything had finally settled down, he didn’t want to disrupt this balance.
If one clings to the people and events of the past, it would be unfair to the present and the future.
Today was Sunday, a rare and leisurely day off. Su Hui slept until noon, had lunch, read a book for a while, then went back to sleep in the afternoon. By the time he woke up, it was already dinner time.
Lately, he had been especially fond of sleeping. On his days off, he would sleep an average of twelve to fourteen hours a day, as if he could never get enough sleep, as if he couldn’t wake up.
Lu Junchi had already done the laundry, cleaned the house, mopped the floor, and was stewing something in the kitchen. When he saw Su Hui coming out, he said to him, “Dinner is ready whenever you’re ready. The delivery arrived, and it should be your new puzzle.”
Lu Junchi had been somewhat worried that Su Hui would be psychologically affected by An Yu Ci’s resignation, but it seemed that Su Hui wasn’t too upset. At this moment, Lu Junchi couldn’t help but feel grateful for Su Hui’s indifference, that protective shield that prevented him from getting hurt even more.
Su Hui opened the package, and his “White Hell” puzzle was already completed. The new puzzle he received this time was YELL DESIGN’s EHT ACCIDENT.
This puzzle was named “Accident,” and the entire puzzle looked like a piece of shattered transparent glass.
When he opened it, the puzzle pieces were completely transparent, each of them varying in size and in a chaotic arrangement. Su Hui poured them out onto the table, and it seemed challenging for him to make sense of it.
Lu Junchi came out of the kitchen with the dishes. “Let’s have dinner first, and you can work on the puzzle afterwards.”
Su Hui felt a bit guilty seeing him busy. “Let me help you.”
Lu Junchi declined, “No, be careful not to burn yourself. Just wait and eat.”
Su Hui nodded. He glanced at the opened package box from earlier, got up, crossed out the address on it, and casually opened the door to place the box in the hallway.
If it were in the past, Su Hui would never have done these things. The cardboard boxes would be left lying around until they were collectively cleaned up at a certain time.
But now, with the house cleaned up by Lu Junchi, he felt that such disorder would ruin Lu Junchi’s efforts. So he took the initiative to do some tidying up.
When he returned to the dining table, the meal was already served.
Su Hui caught a whiff of a delightful aroma and lowered his head to find that today’s main dish was a soup, brown in color, with hints of black things floating within. He scooped some up and identified it, “Is this… black chicken soup?”
Lu Junchi sat down next to him and served him a steaming bowl of black chicken soup, saying, “Yes, black chicken is good for nourishment. Drink more to replenish your body.”
Su Hui blew on the spoon and took a sip. The black chicken soup was delicately flavored, just the way he liked it.
Then he recollected that he had drunk crucian carp soup yesterday and pig trotter soup a few days before.
Su Hui suddenly had a strange feeling…
Did Lu Junchi find a confinement diet plan somewhere?
After finishing their meal, Lu Junchi cleaned up the bowls and chopsticks and added food to Aristotle’s cat bowl.
Unlike usual, Aristotle didn’t come running to enjoy his dinner. The whole house was unusually quiet.
Lu Junchi found it a bit strange and asked Su Hui, “Have you seen Aristotle?”
Su Hui had already sat on the sofa, fully engrossed in the scattered puzzle pieces. He looked up only when Lu Junchi asked, “No. It seems like I haven’t seen him for a while.”
Lu Junchi wasn’t worried. After all, finding a cat was basically a mandatory lesson for every cat owner, and he had plenty of experience with it.
Lu Junchi started searching through the clothes on the sofa—nothing.
Behind the TV where the cat bed was located—nothing.
In the bathroom—nothing…
He checked all the usual spots where Aristotle would often stay, but the cat was nowhere to be found.
Su Hui watched as Lu Junchi walked back and forth in the house, feeling that something was unusual.
Lu Junchi searched the house again but couldn’t find the cat. He returned to the living room and asked Su Hui, “Did you go out just now?”
“No…” Su Hui replied, then paused for a moment, his fingers gripping the puzzle box, and suddenly remembered something. He looked up and said, “I just placed the puzzle box in the hallway…”
Now upon careful recollection, he vaguely felt a dark shadow rushing out at that moment. Su Hui’s face changed slightly, and he dropped the puzzle onto the table.
In a panic, Su Hui stood up, accidentally knocking over the box of puzzle pieces, which scattered onto the floor.
Without caring to pick them up, Su Hui said, “The cat might have slipped out when I opened the door…”
Lu Junchi picked up his jacket and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll go downstairs and look for it.”
Su Hui said, “I’ll come with you.”
With the cat missing, he felt restless. Waiting at home for news felt like torture.
The two cat owners went outside. Lu Junchi remembered something he read online and said to Su Hui, “Some cats may run upstairs. I’ll search upstairs, you search downstairs, and we’ll meet downstairs later.”
Su Hui started searching from the upper floors, going down from the tenth floor to the first. The property management was strict on this side, and no miscellaneous items were allowed in the safety corridor. He walked all the way down but didn’t see the tiny figure.
Soon, Lu Junchi also arrived in the garage and shook his head at Su Hui.
They walked around the underground garage, checking each car.
They went from the exit back to the ground level. By this time, it was already getting dark.
The yard was filled with many cars, some even connected to low bushes. Su Hui knelt on the ground, turned on his phone’s flashlight mode, and made meowing sounds towards the dark underside of the cars.
Lu Junchi looked back and suddenly felt a pang of pain in his heart.
Su Hui was clearly searching for the cat, but he himself looked like a lost cat that couldn’t find its way back home.
After examining a few cars, Su Hui stumbled when he tried to kneel down again.
Lu Junchi walked over and held Su Hui, patting the dirt off his knees.
Su Hui looked a bit bewildered as he raised his head and said, “I lost Aristotle.” His voice trembled, lacking the usual calmness, and his eyes revealed unmistakable panic.
He continued with great concern, “Will Aristotle encounter danger? What if he encounters bad people? What if he gets hungry?”
In that moment, Lu Junchi looked at him and suddenly felt a strange sensation. He wanted to comfort Su Hui but felt that words were somewhat unnecessary. Eventually, he approached him, reached out his hand, and gently wrapped his arms around his thin body, lightly patting his back with the other hand.
It was an embrace that didn’t allow any distracting thoughts. The night breeze was blocked by Lu Junchi, and Su Hui felt a slight warmth in his chest.
This embrace brought him tranquility amidst the panic.
After just one embrace, Lu Junchi quickly let go, taking a step back and saying, “It’s getting dark. Let me continue searching while you sit here and take a rest, think about where the cat might have gone. We will definitely find it.”
Lu Junchi asked the security guards in the neighborhood and then searched around the entire area. At first, he found it a bit difficult to call out, but eventually, he let go and called for Aristotle along the way.
At this time, it was dinner time, and many families who had finished eating were out for a walk. When they heard him calling that name, they showed strange expressions.
A few curious children ran over and asked, “Big brother, what are you looking for?”
Lu Junchi showed them a picture of Aristotle, and kind-hearted people joined him in the search for the cat.
After searching for an hour, they still couldn’t find the cat.
Helpless, Lu Junchi resorted to investigative methods. He went to the security office and retrieved surveillance footage, searching for a while. The footage showed the tiny figure of Aristotle slipping out of the building during dinner time and then disappearing from the camera’s view.
Calculating the time, Lu Junchi realized that if Aristotle had left at that time, it had been enough time for him to vanish without a trace.
Worried about Su Hui, he returned.
Su Hui sat on a bench downstairs. It was gradually getting dark, and the streetlights in the neighborhood were on, illuminating a small area around him.
His memory became clear.
Aristotle was the cat he picked up from the school when he first joined the police academy. His life wasn’t settled yet, and everything was in chaos.
On that rainy day, he got lost in the school and didn’t want to ask the students for directions. He somehow ended up near the dormitory building, and then he heard a faint sound coming from the nearby bushes, accompanied by the soft meowing of a cat. He followed the sound and saw Aristotle emerging from the bushes, a small body trembling slightly, only half its current size.
It walked with him toward the light until they reached the side of the teaching building.
Unable to resist, Su Hui squatted down, and the kitten ran in front of him. He reached out and held the cat, a warm little bundle trembling in his palm.
In that moment, a phrase suddenly came to Su Hui’s mind: “I cannot hold onto yesterday, but I can grasp today.”
It was a quote from Aristotle himself.
From that day on, the cat had a name.
In the past, Su Hui’s memory was somewhat fragmented, and he couldn’t recall this event. Now, it suddenly came back to him.
The last time Aristotle went missing, his personality dissociated to its worst. He felt numb to the whole world, with only a slight sense of urgency, without excessive anxiety.
During a long period of time, he gradually accepted that he was an apathetic person. He blocked all his emotions and feelings from the outside world, believing that he could live well on his own.
However, recently, his disintegrated personality has improved significantly.
The protective layer that shielded his emotions seemed to have become ineffective, and all the emotions returned to his body. He began to feel the joys and sorrows of the human world.
Since the cat went missing, he started to feel anxious, a discomfort he found hard to describe.
He remembered it was a small cat, fluffy with big eyes, and it loved to crawl into his blanket.
Sometimes when he was reading, Aristotle would suddenly jump onto his lap and nudge his hand with its head.
If he was too focused on something, it would get a bit jealous and try to grab his attention.
It was such an affectionate and adorable little creature.
Having been pampered at home, would it be able to adapt to life outside? Would it be caught by someone? Would it get hit by a car? Would it encounter danger? Would it be chased by dogs?
Su Hui felt that losing the cat was his responsibility, and he was filled with self-blame.
He had just bought a puzzle called “Accident,” and now the cat was lost.
If only he hadn’t absentmindedly picked up that cardboard box.
If only he had noticed the cat running out right away.
Su Hui looked up and saw many people taking a stroll. They were in pairs or groups of three, their faces and conversations indistinct, but one could imagine they were talking and laughing.
He realized that he didn’t know any of those people.
Suddenly, a thread in his mind seemed to snap.
It was like an iceberg collapsing.
He felt as if he had lost all connection with the world.
His parents had passed away, and there were no close relatives left. Now, even the cat had left him.
Perhaps he would never find that little creature again.
Suddenly, Su Hui was engulfed by an inexplicable feeling.
It was a chill that surged up from the depths of his heart, causing his whole body to tremble.
He realized what this uncomfortable feeling was—it was loneliness.
Understanding the true meaning of this word, he felt so sad that he wanted to cry.
Su Hui, like a child learning to speak, experienced the emotions of the human world for the first time. It was as if he had experienced the loss of a loved one, discovering the truth of being alive.
Then Su Hui pressed his temples, feeling a slight headache. “A cat is not a human, and this is a righteous and kind cat, not an evil killer cat. It wouldn’t work to analyze the criminal psychology for a suspect…”
Lu Junchi comforted him, “Don’t worry, right now we’re just trying to predict its whereabouts based on its behavior, and in this aspect, humans and cats are similar. The first 72 hours are the golden time to find a lost cat. Can you tell me about the last time the cat went missing?” He had heard Su Hui mention that the cat had been lost before, but he didn’t know the details.
Su Hui lowered his head and recalled, “Last time it went missing, it was gone for a little over a day, and then a student from the Huajing Police Academy brought it back.”
Upon hearing this, Lu Junchi pondered, “This suggests that it might know the way to the school?”
“I found it at the school. That was its home, where it must have lived for a while. Could it be missing its home?” Su Hui wondered.
Lu Junchi continued, “Are there any other behavioral characteristics?”
Su Hui thought for a moment and said, “It likes narrow corners and boxes. Maybe because I threw away a box, it thought it was something it liked and followed it outside.”
At this point, Su Hui expressed another concern, “Should we try leaving the door open at night? Otherwise, it might come back on its own but won’t be able to get in.”
Lu Junchi reassured him, “Don’t worry, sometimes cats are more adaptable than humans… Who among cat owners hasn’t experienced their cat going missing? Most cats usually come back safely.”
Upon hearing his comforting words, Su Hui smiled bitterly and said, “You’re right. In the past, it lived well even without me. Rather than saying it needs me, it’s more accurate to say that I need it…”
For a long time, that cat had been his emotional support, the connection between him and the world. Its loss made him, who had always been calm, lose his composure.
Although Lu Junchi was also worried, he knew that finding a lost cat required patience and composure.
After comforting Su Hui, he quickly made a missing cat poster with photos of Aristotle from the front, side, and back. He wrote down the cat’s size, age, and physical features.
He prepared a cup of milk for Su Hui and showed him the missing cat poster, asking, “Is there anything else we need to add?”
Su Hui felt like he had come out of a state of distraction and carefully examined the poster. “No, you did a great job with it,” he replied.
Lu Junchi sat across from him and said, “Losing something is something I’ve experienced many times since I was young. Not to mention my family’s dog running away every now and then, even my younger brother has gone missing twice. But every time, they were found safely. As the owner, you have to believe that it will come back. It’s a struggle between reality and hope, but as long as there is hope, it will be found.”
Su Hui sipped his milk and nodded softly. Then he said, “Thank you. I’m feeling a bit panicked. If you weren’t here, I really don’t know what I would do.”
His gaze softened something deep within Lu Junchi’s heart, and he said, “I looked up some methods online to find lost cats. There’s also the scissor method; we can try that too.”
As a police officer, he didn’t believe in these mystical methods at all originally. However, when this happened, he realized that these efforts were not for the sake of a higher power or the cat itself.
As long as they made these efforts, it would be a great comfort to the owner.
Lu Junchi tilted his head and suddenly noticed a smudge of dirt on Su Hui’s face, probably from accidentally brushing against something while searching for the cat.
He couldn’t help but reach out and use his fingertip to wipe the smudge away for him.
Su Hui looked up at him, their cheeks momentarily brushing against his fingertip, and he could feel the warmth of Lu Junchi’s fingertips.
This warmth dispelled the confusion in his heart caused by losing the cat.
Lu Junchi first sent a missing cat notice to the residents’ group chat, and then he tapped on Lu Haochu’s name online.
“You’ve seen Aristotle at Professor Su’s house, right?”
Lu Haochu immediately replied, “Yes, I have. Why? Did he go missing again?”
Lu Junchi shared the missing cat notice with him and said, “Help spread the word, there’s a reward for finding him.”
Lu Haochu said, “Don’t worry, raise a younger brother for a thousand days, and use him for a moment. I will *spare no effort and continue until I succeed!”
*”鞠躬尽瘁，死而后已” (jū gōng jìn cuì, sǐ ér hòu yǐ) – “to bend to a task and spare no effort until one’s dying breath” is a famous Chinese idiom attributed to the ancient Chinese philosopher and statesman Confucius.
This phrase emphasizes the importance of wholeheartedly dedicating oneself to a cause, task, or duty until the point of complete exhaustion. It suggests that one should give their utmost effort and devotion, leaving no regrets behind, and be willing to sacrifice everything for the fulfillment of their responsibilities. The ultimate goal is to achieve a sense of fulfillment and completeness in one’s life and work, even if it means giving up one’s life.
Certified member of the IIO(International Introverts Organization), PhD holder in Overthinking and Ghosting, Spokesperson for BOBAH(Benefits of Being a Homebody), Founder of SFA(Salted Fish Association), Brand Ambassador for Couch Potato fall line Pajama set.