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    11 PM.

    Even at a lively place like the Grand Hyatt Hotel, it’s about the time for the public festivities to end, though what kind of revelry might continue behind closed doors is anyone’s guess. However, tonight, not a single luxury car had left the premises, and several police cars with flashing red and blue lights had instead gathered at the entrance.

    The hotel area was cordoned off, and after the police and security personnel calmed the guests, they were all sent back to their rooms. Those who hadn’t planned to stay had no choice but to comply and find accommodation in the available rooms. The grandiose hotel, resembling a palace, had effectively become a large prison—no one could enter, and no one could leave.

    In the banquet hall, Bach’s Goldberg Variations had stopped playing, but the atmosphere remained lively. Ji Lin, captain of the third squad of the criminal investigation unit at the Xinjing District Public Security Bureau, stood inside the cordoned-off area, arms crossed, looking at the corpse on the ground.

    The middle-aged man’s head had lost in its collision with the marble floor, leaving his face unrecognizable. His blood had congealed into brownish-red clots, and his left wrist, wearing a Rolex Green Daytona, was also embedded in the blood clots.

    “Tsk, what a nice watch,” Ji Lin lamented as he took out his notebook to jot down clues.

    A forensics officer taking photographs turned around and rolled his eyes upon hearing this.

    Officer Lu Qing, who had rushed over from home without even having time to properly tie her messy ponytail, was infuriated by his comment: “Captain, since when are you interested in watches? Get to work; I want to finish early and go home!”

    Ji Lin retorted, “You don’t have a partner, so what’s there to do at home?”

    “You don’t have a partner either. So, do you have to find something to do to get through this long night? You men are so melodramatic.”

    “… Don’t go home tonight. We’re working through the night.”

    “What’s left to investigate? Hundreds of people saw him jump over the railing himself. If it weren’t for…” Lu Qing suddenly paused, looked around cautiously, and, after ensuring the person she feared wasn’t nearby, leaned closer to Ji Lin and whispered, “If it weren’t for Commissioner Peng attending the banquet and witnessing the incident, he wouldn’t have urgently mobilized so many people.”

    Ji Lin raised an eyebrow, “You’re wrong. Commissioner Peng is shameless. If he thought there were no doubts, he would’ve called the local precinct to handle this mess. Since he called us, he definitely thinks there’s something fishy, and it might not be a suicide.”

    “…” Lu Qing was momentarily at a loss, unsure whether to criticize the first part of his statement or agree with the latter. “By the way, where’s old Peng? He’s also a witness.”

    “Don’t mention it. He drank too much and got a migraine. He’s half-dead, resting in a guest room upstairs.”

    Lu Qing was speechless and muttered softly, “Can’t we have a reliable leader in our bureau…”

    “What did you say?”

    “Nothing, nothing!”

    Ji Lin couldn’t be bothered to pursue it further and slowly walked around the corpse again. From the surface, clues were indeed scarce. The surveillance footage clearly showed the deceased jumping over the railing by himself, with no external interference. More internal clues would have to wait for the autopsy report. For now, they could only investigate the building and take statements.

    At this moment, a police officer who had been checking the scene ran over from the guest rooms and whispered something in Ji Lin’s ear.

    Ji Lin’s eyes lit up, “Really? I’ll go interrogate that punk!”

    Lu Qing only heard the last few words and immediately knew who he was talking about: “Punk? He’s way more handsome than you… Ow!”

    Ji Lin pressed her head down hard, “Keep quiet if you don’t want to be ignored.”

    At the bar, four men of varying ages and builds, all dressed in suits, sat in a row on high stools.

    Half an hour ago, Lou Baoguo had personally witnessed a man fall from the sky, causing his hefty body to shake violently and spill most of his second pint of beer, leaving just the dregs. He had now commandeered Zhou Yi’s beer under the pretext of calming his nerves.

    “Damn, that was creepy… Do you think Second Uncle was possessed? That last smile of his gave me goosebumps.”

    Zhou Yi elbowed him. “Watch your mouth, that’s the young master’s second uncle, not yours.”

    Lou Baoguo quickly apologized to the person sitting two seats away on his left. “Sorry, young master, I meant no disrespect to your second uncle.”

    The man being questioned by the police leaned against the bar, his long legs stretched out, idly tapping his Oxford shoes on the marble floor as if keeping a beat. He smiled listlessly. “No need to apologize, it’s fine.”

    His slow, lazy drawl ended with a playful lilt, matching his nonchalant demeanor. It was quite roguish.

    Ji Lin ducked under the police tape and, upon seeing his casual demeanor, frowned. He patted his colleague Niu Feng, who was taking notes, on the shoulder and took the notepad and pen. He knocked on the notebook symbolically and, adopting a stern air, said, “Mr. Yu, hello. I am Ji Lin, the captain in charge of this case. I have a few questions for you.”

    Yu Duqiu stared at him for a long moment, making Ji Lin uneasy, as if his gaze could see through his entire ancestry. Finally, Yu Duqiu smiled mysteriously. “Captain Ji, I’ve heard of you. Go ahead.”

    “Heard of him, my ass,” Ji Lin thought. He was just a local cop, barely known outside the precinct. How could this recently returned young master have heard of him? Such hypocrisy.

    But Ji Lin had to admit, Lu Qing was right. Yu Duqiu’s good looks easily surpassed his own, despite his diligent use of sunscreen every day.

    How could a guy have such fair skin, pull off a non-mainstream hair color without looking bad, and have long hair without seeming effeminate?

    “Captain Ji?”

    Ji Lin set aside his stray thoughts and got back to the topic. “Mr. Yu, did your uncle Yu Wencheng have any troubles before he jumped?”

    Yu Duqiu replied without hesitation, “Sorry, I don’t know. We hadn’t seen each other for many years. I haven’t had the chance to catch up with him since returning to the country.”

    As he spoke, Ji Lin flipped through the notes Niu Feng had just written. It was clear that, despite being the person closest to Yu Wencheng before he jumped, Yu Duqiu hadn’t provided much useful information.

    Moreover, he seemed to be deliberately hiding something important.

    “But I heard that you had an argument with him in the room?”

    Yu Duqiu’s expression was half-smiling, his light-colored lips slightly curved. His handsome, gentle face contrasted with the chilling coldness in his eyes. “How did you know we argued?” It was like a lion licking its claws, ready to tear the informer apart upon discovering their identity.

    Ji Lin decided to protect the already terrified young bartender. However, before he could speak, the butler next to Yu Duqiu confessed, “Sorry, young master. When I went downstairs to get some wine, I casually mentioned it to Xiao Zhou and Ah Bao, and it must have been overheard by others.”

    Yu Duqiu’s smile widened, his beauty contrasted by a chilling demeanor. “Uncle Hong, you shouldn’t air our dirty laundry in public. How could you make such a rookie mistake?”

    Hong Liangzhang, who had just cried over Yu Wencheng’s death, had deeply sunken, red eyes. Every wrinkle on his face was etched with sorrow. He said shamefully, “I was happy and had too much to drink. It was a momentary lapse.”

    Yu Duqiu said, “There must be punishment.”

    Ji Lin instantly envisioned a scenario where an elderly man was being brutally beaten. Was Yu Duqiu threatening someone in front of him? Did he not take him seriously? Today, he would make this heartless playboy understand what it means to care for the elderly!

    “I’ll dock your pay for a month,” Yu Duqiu said lightly. “It’s only seventy thousand, just a minor punishment to set an example.”

    “…” Ji Lin silently swallowed his words of righteous indignation.

    He, a small-time cop with a monthly salary of seven thousand, was the one who needed care.

    Yu Duqiu turned back to Ji Lin with an apologetic look. “Captain Ji, I wasn’t intentionally hiding anything. I just felt that airing family issues would be embarrassing, and it had nothing to do with my uncle’s death. Here’s what happened: my uncle came to my room to play chess and chat. We argued about business; he thought my new project would bring trouble to the family. After the argument, my butler—this gentleman here—reminded me that, as a younger generation, I shouldn’t argue with my elders regardless of our disagreements. I thought he was right, so I sent him downstairs to get a bottle of wine to apologize to my uncle. My uncle had calmed down by then. He accepted the wine but didn’t drink it, saying he didn’t feel well and wanted to go home. I walked him out. While walking in the corridor, he gave me some advice. I was so deep in thought that I didn’t notice him speeding up and acting strangely. By the time I realized, he had already jumped, and I couldn’t catch him in time.”

    Yu Duqiu spread his hands, expressing his helplessness.

    Ji Lin stared at him with a peculiar look. Whether his words were true or not, his tone and demeanor were disturbingly calm and relaxed. A living person had died right in front of him, and it was his own relative. An ordinary person would need psychological counseling and might even be traumatized for life. How could this man remain completely unfazed?

    Ji Lin voiced his doubts, “According to witnesses, after seeing Yu Wencheng fall to his death, you even smiled?”

    The faint smell of blood still lingered in the banquet hall. To preserve the crime scene, the windows were all closed. Feeling stifled, Yu Duqiu unbuttoned his suit jacket, then the first two buttons of his shirt, revealing a long neck adorned with a sharp, blade-like necklace. He slid his hands into his trousers pockets and asked Ji Lin, “Can’t I smile?”

    “Why would you smile?”

    “Because it’s interesting.”

    “What’s interesting?”

    “I thought I was the one who was going to die tonight.”

    Ji Lin’s pen paused mid-note. “What?”

    Lou Baoguo spat out a mouthful of beer onto Zhou Yi’s face. “Young master! You can’t just say things like that!”

    Zhou Yi muttered, “…Damn.”

    Yu Duqiu remained leisurely, as if the matter didn’t concern him. “Shouldn’t I laugh for narrowly escaping death?”

    Ji Lin asked, “How did you know something would happen to you tonight?”

    “Because people hate me.” Yu Duqiu tilted his head, looking at Ji Lin. “Captain Ji, do you know what I do?”

    Of course, he knew. Before answering, Ji Lin quickly reviewed the basic information he had received about Yu Duqiu from Commissioner Peng Deyu:

    Yu Duqiu, male, 27 years old, lauded by both domestic and international media as the “Silicon Valley Prodigy,” “Genius Child,” and “Outstanding Young Entrepreneur.” He had founded and invested in multiple seemingly crazy but ultimately successful tech projects, with a business empire spanning five continents. Although he had long resided in the United States, he suddenly returned to China in May, apparently with plans to start a business and raise funds in Xinjing District, hence this banquet to network with dignitaries and elites.

    —This was the official story.

    In reality, Ji Lin had heard from Peng Deyu that this young prodigy had an impressive background. His grandfather was an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his mother was a shrewd businesswoman whose company’s assets ranked among the top 500 on Forbes. The high-profile return of the sole heir of the Yu family was expected to boost Pingyi City’s GDP by at least 5%!

    This banquet was actually an event where the elite from Pingyi City and beyond fought to get acquainted with Yu Duqiu.

    When Ji Lin heard these astonishing “insider” details, he had a thoughtful look and sneaked a glance at his own boss. Peng Deyu, a veteran detective with decades of experience, saw through his speculative gaze and promptly gave him a hard punch on the head. “I’m not here to suck up to this kid. I’m interested in his new project. It might bring some convenience to our work.”

    Clutching his head as if it had cracked open, Ji Lin painfully asked, “What… project?”

    “It’s called brain… brain something? The name’s too tricky to remember.” Peng Deyu, having drunk half a bottle of Maotai, was a bit muddled and couldn’t articulate clearly.

    “…” You’re just dodging your wife to have a drink, aren’t you!

    Ji Lin didn’t dare to say this out loud. Later, he looked it up himself. Yu Duqiu’s new tech project in China was named “Themis,” focusing on “brain-computer interfaces,” a highly popular field over the past few decades, with many of the world’s top billionaires involved.

    In professional terms, it’s about creating a connection between the human or animal brain and external devices to facilitate information exchange between the brain and the device. The current mainstream research focuses on how humans can control devices using their thoughts, similar to Iron Man and Avatar.

    This sounded quite sci-fi to Ji Lin, and while researching, he couldn’t help but marvel at the rapid advancements in modern technology.

    Yu Duqiu’s focus, however, was on the reverse research—using devices to control human thoughts. It suited him well, given his appearance and demeanor, like a sci-fi villain bent on world domination.

    “Of course I know,” Ji Lin replied. “You’re planning to develop a brain-computer interface project with your return to China, right?”

    Yu Duqiu applauded, “Your department’s investigation efficiency is quite high, but not detailed enough. My main focus is using brain-computer interfaces to control the human brain with devices. For now, of course, it sounds like fantasy. What we can currently achieve is only minor intervention in the brain, such as altering cognitive behavior with brain waves, blocking excitement areas, and real-time monitoring of brain data.”

    Ji Lin replied, “…Can you explain in simpler terms?”

    Yu Duqiu said, “Alright, let me give you an example related to your work. Suppose a drug addict uses a wearable device or an implanted chip developed by my company. With the brain-computer interface, I can change their addiction to drugs, helping them quit from the root in the brain. This is one of the main purposes of the Themis project, provided we successfully develop it. Understand?”

    Ji Lin stared in shock, “You can actually do that?”

    Yu Duqiu shrugged, “Theoretically, it’s feasible, but we are still in the experimental stage. In the US, where drugs and guns are legal, researching this infringes on too many interests, and I have to constantly guard against assassination attempts. So I returned to China. The strong anti-drug stance here makes things better, though not completely safe. I anticipated potential trouble tonight but didn’t expect my uncle to be the one to die. It’s very bizarre, and I hope you can catch the killer soon, so I can give an explanation to my uncle’s family.”

    Ji Lin solemnly said, “Naturally, but until the killer is caught, you remain a primary suspect, so be prepared for further questioning.”

    “Alright, I will cooperate,” Yu Duqiu said with a yawn, showing his fatigue. “Is there anything else, Captain Ji? To be honest, my fiancĂ©e has been waiting alone in the guest room for an hour and is probably unhappy. I need to go comfort her.”

    Ji Lin, who had been single all his life, handed the pen and paper back to Niu Feng with resentment. “You can return to your room, but you can’t leave the hotel. Once we get the autopsy report, I will find you again.”

    Lou Baoguo, finishing his beer, let out a long burp, “Finally, I can sleep!”

    “No, you two stay,” Yu Duqiu suddenly said.

    Zhou Yi asked, “Young master, what’s the matter?”

    “Stay and give statements,” Yu Duqiu replied.

    Niu Feng said, “I’ve already taken their statements.”

    Yu Duqiu shook his head, “Not about my uncle, but about the bar service staff.”

    Ji Lin was puzzled, “You mean Wu Wei? What about him? He’s been at the bar all night.”

    “I mean another one,” Yu Duqiu’s gaze turned to the staircase, where Yu Wen Cheng’s body was being put into a body bag by the police. “At the time of the incident, I saw a waiter with drinks standing beside my uncle’s body.”

    Ji Lin looked at Niu Feng, who said, “There was one. We’ve already investigated him. He went to Yongping Supermarket two streets away to buy a few bottles of beer and didn’t go to the guest rooms. The surveillance confirms this. Yu Wencheng’s fall happened right beside him.”

    Ji Lin turned to Yu Duqiu, raising an eyebrow, “It seems there’s no issue. Why are you bringing him up?”

    Yu Duqiu suggested, “I recommend keeping an eye on this person. From my observation, he was unnaturally calm.”

    “…” The eeriest and calmest person here is you!

    “…Alright, I’ll have someone keep an eye on him. But he might just have been too scared to move.”

    Yu Duqiu didn’t argue, stood up, and with a polite nod, headed toward the stairs, followed closely by his old butler.

    Niu Feng grumbled, “This guy is so arrogant… like everyone has to listen to him.”

    Ji Lin watched Yu Duqiu’s departing figure for a while and concluded: From behind, this unconventional hairstyle actually looked quite stylish.

    The hundred-meter-long corridor was flanked by glass on both sides, making it feel like walking on a sky bridge without railings. A gust of wind could sweep a person off, sending them plummeting several stories down.

    As the night breeze ruffled Yu Duqiu’s hair, his gaze grew increasingly somber.

    “Interesting.”

    Hong Liangzhang, being older and a bit hard of hearing, asked, “What did you say, young master?”

    Yu Duqiu slowed his pace so Hong Liangzhang could draw closer to hear. “Hong Bo, don’t you find it strange? My second uncle and I haven’t been in contact for many years. Why would he suddenly come as a mediator? Who called him?”

    “This… I don’t know,” Hong Liangzhang recalled Yu Wencheng’s tragic end, his eyes reddening again. “I never thought such a thing would happen as soon as you returned. Young master, you might not remember, but when you were little, your second uncle used to hold you…”

    “I remember. He would lift me over his head, let me sit on his shoulders, and use snacks to amuse me, even though I didn’t like them. I would just look at him speechlessly, but he enjoyed it. I remember all of it,” Yu Duqiu’s voice drifted into the wind, like a sigh. “He died because of me, and I will remember that too.”

    Hong Liangzhang wiped his eyes. “Young master, it’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself…”

    “Blame myself? No, he was just a sacrificial piece. To win a game of chess, you can’t avoid losses. I will make his sacrifice meaningful,” Yu Duqiu said. “Hong Bo, you should stay with me for now. If something happens to you too, my grandfather won’t forgive me.”

    Hong Liangzhang frowned, the wrinkles on his face deepening like the lines on tree bark. “Ah, I’m already half in the grave, not afraid of death. But I think your uncle made some valid points. Offending the interests of the drug cartels means you won’t bear the consequences alone. Your father learned that lesson twenty years ago and never touched this field again. The Yu family has both fame and fortune; why take on such a thankless project? Why not let others research it?”

    Yu Duqiu shook his head and turned towards the corridor’s glass window, looking out over the entire Xinjing District. Kangping Avenue stretched out for several kilometers, with buildings in the distance fading into the night, the dark sky looming over the earth, and all people appeared as ants.

    “I would rather die in the pursuit of desire than live in lethargic boredom. Besides, you know the reason I returned. I can’t betray his trust.”

    Hong Liangzhang, recalling something, said sympathetically, “My condolences.”

    “I’ve already mourned. Dwelling on the past is futile,” Yu Duqiu stared at the reflection in the glass, his eyes gleaming with excitement. “Pingyi City… this place is anything but peaceful and just. I have a feeling that tonight’s unrest is far from over.”

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