In the slums of Wanhu City, the night grew dense, and the sky appeared inked.
Tonight was cloudy, with stars and moon hidden behind dark clouds, leaving the night devoid of light.
In the pitch-black darkness, Lu Junchi, Qi Zhengyang, and a young police officer named Wang Xunan were running through narrow alleys. The time was approaching ten o’clock at night.
The slums here consisted of low-rise houses, with narrow and rugged roads. Some areas had uncovered pits, and there were illegal buildings on both sides of the road, making it impossible for cars to enter.
This area had long been planned for demolition, but a few households had not reached an agreement, so the demolition had not started. Many houses were already empty, but some still had residents.
Regardless of whether someone was home or not, they went door to door to confirm.
The slums were chaotic, with small houses built illegally everywhere, with varying sizes and shapes. Some people set up stalls by the roadside, completely devoid of order.
Lu Junchi had lost count of how many stairs he had climbed and how many houses he had run through tonight. Physical exhaustion was secondary; the fear of running out of time haunted him.
Every passing second was a countdown to a child’s life.
Over two hundred people were already in action in Wanhu City, but they were still struggling to search through this maze-like slum area.
Everyone seemed like scattered sand in a river, instantly dispersed in this chaotic labyrinth.
After knocking on doors, they encountered various faces—yawning, grumbling, people who couldn’t be bothered to dress properly. They had no idea what they were being searched for and didn’t care as long as it didn’t concern them.
The live broadcast had caused chaos outside, but most residents in the slums didn’t react much.
These people were even less enthusiastic than those living in unfinished buildings.
Those living in unfinished buildings still felt a sense of responsibility and belonging. Despite their difficulties, they wanted to continue their lives in this city. However, the people here seemed to have given up on everything—struggle, effort, and even imagination.
These people were out of sync with the city.
They looked at the busy police officers with confusion.
Lu Junchi also found them strange.
These people were still alive, residing in one of the most prosperous cities in the world. However, it seemed as if the bustling city life had already distanced itself from their existence. They willingly hid in this small area of the city, decaying and numb, even rotting away.
Multiple connections could be heard through the intercom, occasionally transmitting messages from various locations, most of which were fruitless.
However, to some extent, it was still a fruitful night. They discovered two dens of vice, apprehended several drug dealers, and found a few places where illegal gambling was taking place.
But none of these were what they were searching for tonight.
Where exactly was the hidden live streaming room?
Lu Junchi, Qi Zhengyang, and Wang Xunan, panting heavily, rushed into a dark and narrow alley.
A message came from Xia Mingxi: “The media’s live broadcast wasn’t very successful. It caused chaos on-site, and it seems like the host is about to start an execution…”
The sound in their earphones was suddenly interrupted by a young man’s voice.
“Hey, what are you doing here? You’re not allowed in.”
Lu Junchi heard the voice and looked ahead. In the pitch-black night, five or six unruly youths blocked their path.
“We’re police officers!” Lu Junchi didn’t expect to be stopped here. He flashed his police badge.
It was a narrow alley, and further ahead were a few makeshift buildings. These houses had been around for some time, with some of them darkened and others dimly lit through small windows.
Most of the street lamps on the roadside were broken, and only one dim orange light illuminated the road surface, casting long shadows behind these hooligans.
In such a secluded corner, these individuals seemed to appear out of thin air. They looked young, barely teenagers. The smallest one hadn’t even fully grown yet, the age when they should be in school receiving an education, but they were already immersed in the streets.
They lazily stood in the middle of the road, blocking the way, showing no intention of moving. Their gaze was full of ill intentions.
One of them muttered, looking at Lu Junchi and the others, “Who are you trying to fool? How could there be police here?”
Another person chimed in, “Yeah, how dare the police come here?”
The rest burst into laughter.
Lu Junchi had heard that there were some lawless areas in this slum area, where the crowd was mixed, there were no surveillance cameras, and incidents of people being beaten and injured were not uncommon. Even the police didn’t dare to come alone here to investigate.
Qi Zhengyang, panting, attempted to communicate with them, “Why don’t you allow us to enter? Who told you to guard this place?”
“Tonight, no one is allowed to enter here,” replied the leader, a young man with streaks of dyed yellow hair. Some of the people behind him held sticks, others held bricks, and one chubby guy smashed a beer bottle against a nearby electric pole, grabbing the shattered bottle in his hand.
Wang Xunan, still young, felt a bit uneasy seeing their numbers and weapons. He exclaimed, “This is assaulting an officer!”
The chubby guy cursed, “Laozi is hitting the police, damn it!”
Lu Junchi glanced to the side and saw some leftover grilled skewers and beer bottles on the roadside. There was a faint smell of alcohol in the air. It was evident that these people had been guarding this place for a while. They were deliberately provoking and stalling for time.
This attitude almost confirmed that there must be something unsavory in the houses behind them.
Everyone was busy with their own searches, and calling for backup was obviously not an option. Lu Junchi hadn’t made up his mind yet when the group of delinquents charged at them directly.
It seemed that a fight was inevitable. Lu Junchi didn’t want to resort to using his gun. He rolled up his sleeves twice, squinting his narrow eyes. He took a step back and kicked directly at the chest of one person in front of him. Then, he quickly twisted his hand and snatched the person’s stick away. Swinging the stick around, he immediately created an opening in the encirclement.
Lu Junchi shouted, “Old Qi, you lead your team ahead. I’ll join you soon.”
The young officer, Wang Xunan, was still a bit confused. “Can you handle it alone, Captain Lu?”
Qi Zhengyang pushed him. “Even ten of these guys would be no match for Captain Lu. Don’t get in the way here. We need to hurry!”
The remaining few people wanted to intervene, but Lu Junchi took a step forward and swept the stick in his hand, creating a gust of wind that stopped them.
After Qi Zhengyang and Wang Xunan ran out of the alley, Lu Junchi turned to face the hooligans in front of him. These few delinquents were indeed not worth his attention.
“Everyone, attack together! I’ll take responsibility for any injuries!” Yellow Hair shouted and rushed forward, taking advantage of their numerical superiority.
Lu Junchi swung the wooden stick in his hand mercilessly, striking Yellow Hair’s head. Yellow Hair closed his eyes in fright, but it was a feint.
Lu Junchi raised his knee to hit Yellow Hair’s abdomen and then swiftly retracted the stick, jabbing the chin of the person behind him. The person cried out in pain, seeming to have bitten his tongue, and took two steps back, covering his mouth.
The chubby guy attacked again, thrusting the beer bottle in his hand towards Lu Junchi’s abdomen.
Lu Junchi quickly lowered his body, grabbing his hand, and kicked him in the knee, causing the chubby guy to lose his balance. Lu Junchi spun behind him, swiftly locking his throat with an arm. The beer bottle fell from the chubby guy’s hand, and his bulky body inadvertently became a shield for Lu Junchi, receiving two strikes from his companions.
Lu Junchi pushed him forward, releasing his grip, and the chubby guy fell to the ground, knocking down another person in front.
In the narrow alley, illuminated by the street lamp, shadows flickered and danced.
The few hooligans had taken a few blows and were filled with rage, launching even more fierce attacks.
Lu Junchi defended without revealing any openings. He seized the opportunity when one of the attackers made a mistake and performed a back throw, slamming him onto the ground. Without pausing, he swung the wooden stick in his hand again, aiming at Yellow Hair who was charging forward. Yellow Hair thought it would be another feint and continued his charge. The knife in his hand was only inches away from Lu Junchi’s chest, but he received a solid blow to his shoulder.
Another person rushed forward, and Lu Junchi delivered a side kick to his abdomen, sending him stumbling back several meters until he forcefully collided with the wall.
The remaining two delinquents realized they were no match and turned to run, but Lu Junchi tripped one with his leg, and the other was hit by a discarded stick and fell to the ground.
The whole process flowed smoothly like running water, taking only five minutes in total.
Lu Junchi’s movements were swift, targeting non-vital areas. He was filled with anger, so he struck harder without leaving any room for mercy. The few delinquents lay on the ground, groaning and writhing in pain.
Seeing that they had lost all resistance, Lu Junchi stopped and took a breath. He took out his phone and snapped pictures of their faces. “Tonight, you obstructed the police investigation. Don’t think you can get away with this!”
“Dad, dad… it’s our fault, we didn’t know any better,” the chubby guy pleaded while kneeling on the ground.
Lu Junchi kicked him and walked a few steps to stand in front of Yellow Hair. With a click, he handcuffed him and called for someone over the radio to come and detain the delinquents.
Lu Junchi was about to go after Qi Zhengyang and the others, but he still felt that something was suspicious. He lowered his head and asked them, “Do you know anything about what happened in the live broadcast room tonight?”
Yellow Hair was taken aback. “What? What happened in the live broadcast room? I didn’t watch any live broadcasts. We came here to buy grilled skewers and beer, and we’ve been stopping people since around 5 p.m.”
This reaction didn’t seem like a lie. Lu Junchi wiped the sweat off his forehead and asked, “Who told you to stop people here?”
“It… it was my friend. He gave me two thousand bucks and told me that no matter who it was, nobody was allowed to pass through here tonight… I bragged and agreed at the time. He didn’t mention that it would be the police.”
Lu Junchi twisted Yellow Hair’s arm forcefully. “His name!”
Yellow Hair yelled, “Tao Yingxu! It was Tao Yingxu who told us to guard this place.”
Upon hearing that name, Lu Junchi’s expression changed slightly. “Tao Yingxu from Wanhu No. 1 High School?”
Yellow Hair nodded anxiously. “That’s the guy. We were in the same class in junior high, and I owe him a favor…”
Wasn’t Tao Yingxu the third victim?
Why would this “model student” be involved in such activities?
Lu Junchi furrowed his brow instantly. The development of this case caught him somewhat off guard.
He exerted pressure with his grip.
Yellow Hair hurriedly exclaimed, “Sir! Ancestors! It’s true, it’s true! I have chat records with him that can prove it. He even transferred money to me…”
“When did this happen?”
“Around 4 p.m. today, Officer. I can show you the chat records on my phone…”
That time was just before the start of the live broadcast in the afternoon. It felt like a fire ignited in Lu Junchi’s heart. He felt like he was getting closer to the truth, but there were still many unexplained aspects.
He felt as if he was trapped in a maze, where he could see the finish line if he raised his head, but he didn’t know when he would actually reach it.
At this moment in the live broadcast room, the anchor’s hand had already grabbed the rope, and the young boy sitting on the chair was gradually being lifted up.
“This…Although Na Xuehai’s crimes were confessed in a somewhat chaotic manner, he has admitted to his crimes! The police have already stated that they will thoroughly investigate. Your goal has been achieved, right?!”
“His goal isn’t to expose the wrongdoings of those people. He’s using this as an opportunity to commit murder!”
“Oh my god! No! Please don’t kill anyone!”
“You sicko… You derive pleasure from killing!”
The viewers felt their hearts racing. Amidst the rapidly scrolling barrage of comments, the rope tightened gradually, and the young boy’s body was lifted completely off the ground. He struggled and convulsed, his body writhing and stiffening.
Then the screen suddenly went black.
“What’s happening? What went wrong?”
“Is it a problem with the live signal?”
“What happens next?”
After half a minute of black screen, everything lit up again. The camera didn’t move and focused on the young boy’s feet. They were dangling in the air, gently swaying before coming to a complete stop.
The camera moved upward, capturing his face—a pale and lifeless face.
People finally realized that the young boy had been lifted into the air, devoid of any signs of life.
“Where are the police? Why haven’t they arrived yet?”
“Is there any hope left?”
“Oh my god, it’s so cruel.”
Another young life lost.
The execution of the third victim concluded, and the anchor’s cold voice resounded, “Everyone has seen the outcome, haven’t they? We are already in the throes of illness, yet everyone takes it for granted. In this world, evil people won’t be judged, and acts of bravery will be questioned. I hope all ordinary people remember this night… See you all in half an hour.”
The third live broadcast ended, but they still couldn’t make it in time.
Just as everyone fell into silence, a message suddenly popped up in the chat group.
Xia Mingxi said, “I just received information from Huabei Affiliated Hospital. The second victim, Mo Xiuxiu, regained consciousness after being rescued.”
Sitting in the school office, Su Hui raised his head and asked Qiao Ze, “Is Huabei Affiliated Hospital far from here?”
Qiao Ze paused for a moment, then opened the map on his computer and started typing. “Not far, a ten-minute drive. Previously, when Mo Xiuxiu was taken away by the ambulance, it automatically chose the nearest hospital.”
Su Hui stood up. “I want to go see Mo Xiuxiu.”
Qiao Ze hurriedly closed his laptop. “Alright, I’ll call a car. But do we have to go there ourselves? There will be accompanying detectives there, and if you have any questions, you can let them ask first.”
Qiao Ze was a bit worried because this round trip would consume more time on the road.
Su Hui shook his head. “She might lie. I want to confirm some things myself.”
If his speculation was correct, Mo Xiuxiu could be a key to unraveling the puzzle.
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.