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    Early in the morning, sunlight streamed into the bedroom, filling the room with brightness. It was as if the shadow of death that had loomed over everyone last night had never existed.

    Yu Duqiu had forgotten to close the curtains the night before. The sunlight shining in irritated him, and he blindly reached out for the automatic curtain control button on the bedside table with his eyes closed.

    “A bit to the left.”

    “!” He opened his eyes abruptly, then quickly lowered his head to ease the sudden assault of light on his eyes. After a moment of adjustment, he looked up—

    On the sofa by the floor-to-ceiling window sat a tall man, even while seated. He had been staring at Yu Duqiu, motionless, for an unknown length of time. There were faint circles of dark grey under his eyes.

    “Almost forgot about you.” Yu Duqiu sighed in relief, sat up, stretched lazily, and pressed the hotel service bell. “You didn’t leave? Congratulations on passing the first test. Stayed up all night?”

    “What do you think?” Bai Zhao shrugged his numb shoulders, his hands still bound behind his back. “Could you sleep like this?”

    “My bad, I was too inconsiderate.” Yu Duqiu got out of bed, barefoot on the plush carpet, walked over to him, and bent down to untie the tie binding his hands.

    Silver hair fell to the side of his neck, and one could hear his light breathing. Bai Zhao turned his head away, but Yu Duqiu leaned in closer, nearly embracing him as he slowly untied the knot.

    “…Are you done? Your hair is tickling.”

    “Done.” Yu Duqiu stood up and tousled Bai Zhao’s hair. Bai Zhao’s short, rough hair was a bit prickly but very wild, especially suiting his rugged features.

    Bai Zhao looked up, raising an eyebrow. “My legs are tied too.”

    Yu Duqiu yawned and walked away indifferently. “I’m not going to kneel for you. Don’t you have hands?”

    At that moment, the suite door opened, and the sound of a cart rolling was heard from outside the bedroom. Soon, Hong Liangzhang appeared at the bedroom door, pushing a three-tiered dining cart. He only paused for a moment upon seeing the bound man but didn’t seem particularly surprised. Without asking any questions, he dutifully laid out the breakfast on the round table.

    Bai Zhao gave a mocking look. “Seems like you tie people up in your room often.”

    “I usually don’t let people stay overnight. You’re the first.” Yu Duqiu headed towards the bathroom, glancing back. “I have a special basement at home for tying people up. If you’re interested, I’ll let you experience it next time.”

    The disdain in Bai Zhao’s eyes was unmistakable.

    Yu Duqiu pretended not to see it and didn’t care, heading into the bathroom for a shower.

    When he came out half an hour later, Hong Liangzhang had already set the table with a tablecloth and breakfast. The three-tiered tray had Chinese congee and dim sum on one layer, French croissants and juice on the second, and American salad and coffee on the third.

    Bai Zhao had untied the nylon rope himself. His long legs, bound all night, were now stretched out comfortably as he sat at the table, eating a plate of truffle vegetarian dumplings and a bowl of shrimp and bone broth congee.

    Hong Liangzhang stood by, helpless. “Young master, I tried to stop him…”

    Yu Duqiu waved his hand to indicate it was fine. He sat down opposite Bai Zhao, propping his elbow on the table and resting his chin in his palm, smiling at him. “Truffles and shrimp are good for virility. Eat more.”

    “Ugh!” Bai Zhao covered his mouth and put down his chopsticks. “You’ve ruined my appetite. You eat it.”

    Yu Duqiu nodded but didn’t pick up his chopsticks. He leaned back comfortably into the armchair, speaking lightly, “Uncle Hong.”

    Hong Liangzhang responded, “I’ll have another serving sent up.”

    Bai Zhao was puzzled. “I only ate two things. There’s still plenty left. It’s enough for you.”

    Yu Duqiu smiled as if it were the most natural thing. “Sorry, I have a phobia of eating leftovers. Besides, how can the master eat what the dog leaves behind?”

    Five minutes later, a new breakfast was laid out on the table, identical to the previous one.

    Yu Duqiu leisurely sipped his shrimp and bone broth congee, meeting the cold gaze from across the table. He smiled and asked, “Are you angry?”

    Bai Zhao shook his head. “You don’t need to eat this.”

    The unexpected answer intrigued Yu Duqiu. “Why?”

    “Because you don’t need to enhance your virility.” Bai Zhao stood up and, with a solid kick from his sturdy Martin boots, the heavy wooden table shook violently. Most of the congee spilled out of the porcelain bowl. “What you need is a good fucking.” With that, he stormed out.

    Yu Duqiu was momentarily stunned.

    Hong Liangzhang’s wrinkled face twisted further as he cleaned his besmirched ears. “Young master, this person…”

    “Is quite spirited, isn’t he?” Yu Duqiu rubbed his chin, chuckling at his own thoughts. “Let him go for now. We’ll deal with him later. Bring me my watch from the study.”

    At nine in the morning, in the fourth-floor conference room of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

    Around the oval conference table sat several police officers. The projector displayed scrolling images and text as an emergency meeting was underway.

    Peng Deyu, the director of the Xinjing District Public Security Bureau, was over fifty and visibly worn out. His bald spot gleamed with an oily sheen, and the sparse hair around it was dyed black. Despite his attempts to cover up his age, deep wrinkles extended from the corners of his eyes and mouth.

    Usually sharp-eyed, Peng looked a bit weary today. He had drunk too much last night and had only managed to briefly discuss the case with Ji Lin before going to sleep. This morning, he woke up with a splitting headache, his eyes bloodshot. If not for his unwavering dedication to serving the people, he would still be lying in bed.

    Ji Lin had brought him two cushions, one for his back and one for under his seat.

    Peng Deyu nodded gratefully. “The younger generation is impressive.”

    Ji Lin also placed a cushion behind his own back. “Don’t get too emotional. I’m just worried that if something happens to you, I’ll be left to clean up this mess.”

    Peng Deyu: “…”

    All the police officers in the meeting room, regardless of rank, looked disheartened. At one o’clock last night, Deputy Director of the Technical Division and Forensic Pathologist Tang Zhong, along with two trainee forensic pathologists, had conducted a thorough examination of Yu Wencheng’s body. By 7:30 this morning, the results were in, shocking everyone.

    Upon hearing the report, Peng Deyu felt his head might split open more thoroughly than Yu Wencheng’s.

    Suicide wasn’t frightening, nor was homicide unusual, but finding residual hallucinogens—third-generation LSD—in Yu Wencheng’s stomach was beyond anyone’s expectations!

    These drugs were mostly smuggled in international parcels from Europe and America, making it extremely difficult to trace the suppliers. Peng couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness, longing for an oxygen tank.

    Ji Lin appeared to be engrossed in reviewing the autopsy report, which he had already read at least five times, but he was also a bit dazed. Encountering drug use and trafficking cases was not uncommon. From January to May this year alone, Pingshi City had cracked over a hundred drug-related cases, arrested more than two hundred suspects, and seized over ten kilograms of various drugs. LSD, a drug with low addictive potential, wasn’t a major money-maker for dealers. No related cases had occurred in Xinjing District in the past two years. Who could have predicted that such a catastrophe would erupt, putting on a horror show before high-ranking officials and dignitaries from all over the city and beyond? The city bureau’s top leaders had called last night, ostensibly to express concern, but in reality, to apply pressure.

    This case was like a tangled ball of yarn—clearly yarn, but impossible to find the end.

    “What did the victim’s family say?” Peng Deyu, now slightly recovered after getting comfortable, took his health cup and sipped some ginseng tea to boost his energy.

    A recently dispatched officer reported, “Yu Wencheng’s wife and parents said he had no history of drug use. We searched his house and found no drugs.”

    Ji Lin added, “I called the local police station in his residential area. The records matched the family’s description. Yu Wencheng had no history of drug use.”

    Forensic Pathologist Tang Zhong, looking exhausted from working all night, asked, “Could he have been using secretly without his family’s knowledge and without getting caught?”

    Ji Lin shook his head, crossing his hands on the table and speaking gravely, “I reviewed the surveillance footage from the hotel room last night. The audio is clear. Yu Duqiu wasn’t lying. At 10:23 PM, Yu Wencheng said he was going to drive to the company next and wouldn’t drink anymore, saying they’d drink next time. Five minutes after saying that, he ‘jumped to his death.’ If he had taken LSD, he would have known the consequences. There’s no way he would have used drugs and then driven to the company. That would be suicidal. So, it must be that…”

    “Someone poisoned him,” Peng Deyu concluded.

    Ji Lin’s expression turned sour, as if he had swallowed a fly, unable to spit it out. “Chief, could you not steal my punchline?”

    “There’s no time to worry about that,” Peng Deyu glared at him. “This new type of drug can stay in the human body for only a day or two, sometimes just a few hours before it’s undetectable. Luckily, Tang conducted a timely and thorough examination. If we had waited until you thought of it, the evidence would have been long gone!”

    Tang Zhong waved his hand modestly. “Each field has its own expertise. The deceased’s erratic behavior before jumping led me to check for psychoactive substances. Our bureau has never encountered a murder case involving new drugs, so it’s understandable Ji didn’t think of it. He’ll know for the future.”

    Peng Deyu sighed. “I’ve noticed Ji’s mental state has been off for the past six months too. Always seems to be daydreaming, even more muddled than me.”

    Tang Zhong interjected, “Let’s stay on topic. Solving the case is more important. This hallucinogen typically takes effect within 30 minutes and peaks in 2 to 4 hours. Based on that, the victim was most likely poisoned within four hours before the incident.”

    Peng Deyu ordered, “Did you hear that? Quickly list all of Yu Wencheng’s movements within the four hours before he jumped and scrutinize his meals!”

    Ji Lin protested, “I’ve already done that! In the four hours before the incident, he was at the company until 7 PM. After encountering some traffic, he arrived at the hotel forty minutes later. This rules out poisoning at the company; otherwise, he would have had symptoms during the drive. Afterward, he went straight to Yu Duqiu’s suite. Dinner was served there, but according to Tang’s timeline, Yu Wencheng entered the room at 7:40, finished dinner by 8, and the butler left with the cart. By 8:30, he would have started feeling dizzy if poisoned then. However, surveillance shows he left Yu Duqiu’s room around 9 PM, appearing normal. When Yu Duqiu went to apologize and deliver wine at 10:20, Yu Wencheng was seen touching his forehead. Given his sudden suicide ten minutes later, it’s likely he was poisoned while alone in his room.”

    Peng Deyu stroked his stubbly chin. “Was any food or drink in his room tampered with?”

    High-end hotels like the Grand Hyatt typically provide some snacks for guests, so pre-poisoning them isn’t difficult.

    However, Ji Lin shook his head. “No, Lu Qing and the housekeeping manager confirmed that all food and drink were untouched.”

    Tang Zhong cautioned, “LSD is colorless and tasteless, dissolves in water, and 100 micrograms can cause hallucinations. Poisoning would be easy; the victim may have just taken a sip of water.”

    Lu Qing added, “Director Tang, all the beverages in the room were sealed bottles. I checked, none were opened. The fruit was arranged in slices, none missing. Another possibility is the poisoner could have tainted the toilet water, and the victim drank from it.”

    Tang Zhong: “…”

    Ji Lin smacked her on the head. “Stop being clever!”

    Lu Qing covered her head, looking innocent. “I was just listing all possibilities!”

    The other officers couldn’t help but chuckle, easing the tense atmosphere.

    Peng Deyu’s health cup was nearly empty, and his hangover headache had eased considerably. Suddenly inspired, he put down his tea cup with a slap and asked, “Did Yu Wencheng bring anything into his room?”

    Realizing it was a redundant question, he knew Lu Qing, despite her occasional clumsiness, was meticulous in evidence collection. She wouldn’t have overlooked Yu Wencheng’s belongings.

    As expected, Lu Qing replied, “He only had a briefcase with documents, a pen, business cards, and car keys. No food or drink.”

    Peng Deyu sighed deeply, feeling stuck again. Pressing his temples, he felt a sense of helplessness. “No one poisoned him, and he didn’t take LSD himself. Could he have produced the toxin on his own?”

    Ji Lin pondered for a moment. “Just because there was nothing in his briefcase when Lu Qing checked doesn’t mean there wasn’t something before.”

    Lu Qing asked, “Hmm?”

    Ji Lin responded, “He previously spent an hour and a half in Yu Duqiu’s room. According to Yu Duqiu, they were playing chess. In that case, Yu Wencheng would have placed his briefcase aside and picked it up when he left. If there was a bottle of water—or perhaps other food or drink—in his briefcase, it could have been poisoned while he wasn’t paying attention. As Yu Wencheng was about to leave, the perpetrator could have found a way to make him consume it. This way, Yu Wencheng wouldn’t show symptoms of poisoning while still in Yu Duqiu’s room, and the evidence could be disposed of later without much difficulty.”

    Peng Deyu’s eyes lit up. “Smart thinking. This is highly plausible. Immediately investigate everyone who entered Yu Duqiu’s room between 7:40 and 9:00.”

    Ji Lin nodded. “I already did a preliminary investigation last night. That young master is extravagant; he had over a dozen people serving him dinner. Fortunately, we identified everyone. Give me some time to look into it more thoroughly.”

    Peng Deyu urged, “Move quickly. These guests are influential, and the hotel can’t keep them locked up for long. We need to release them by this afternoon at the latest, or we risk legal action for unlawful detention. What bad luck—I just went out for a drink and stumbled into a drug-related murder case…”

    Ji Lin quipped, “You might be China’s Conan.”

    With a breakthrough in the seemingly unsolvable case, the other officers in the meeting room felt a bit relieved. If Ji Lin’s hypothesis was correct, the perpetrator had to be among those dozen people, a much narrower suspect pool than usual. As long as they kept these people in custody and questioned them, they would eventually find the true culprit.

    However, Tang Zhong frowned with concern. “But even if there was an opportunity to poison, there’s still something that doesn’t add up: LSD doesn’t guarantee suicidal impulses, and its onset time is unpredictable. How could the perpetrator ensure that Yu Wencheng would have a suicidal impulse and that he would be at the staircase when it happened?”

    Ji Lin, stroking his chin, looked pensive, his youthful face showing an air of maturity. “Perhaps the perpetrator didn’t intend for Yu Wencheng to commit suicide. It might just be that the drug’s effects kicked in at the right moment, Yu Wencheng happened to be at the staircase, and he happened to have a suicidal impulse. Multiple coincidences came together to create such a dramatic scene.”

    Tang Zhong asked, “But if the perpetrator didn’t intend to kill Yu Wencheng, what was their goal? If there weren’t so many coincidences, Yu Wencheng would have been disoriented for a while and then recovered, with no addiction. What would be the point of such a poisoning?”

    “To make an example,” Ji Lin answered.

    Tang Zhong questioned, “Are you suggesting that Yu Duqiu used Yu Wencheng as a warning to others not to interfere with his new project? Right now, Yu Duqiu is indeed the prime suspect, with both the motive from their argument and the opportunity to poison.”

    Ji Lin shook his head. “No, Yu Wencheng might be the chicken, but I believe the monkey is—”

    Suddenly, the door to the meeting room swung open from the outside.

    Everyone turned to look.

    A tall, striking figure walked in, dressed in a black beaded shirt with a zipper that plunged into a deep V, revealing pale skin adorned with a blade-like necklace that gleamed silver, matching his nearly white bleached hair.

    Yu Duqiu smiled slightly and greeted in English, “Morning.”

    The plainclothes and uniformed officers were momentarily dazzled by his flamboyant appearance. Ji Lin chuckled and said to Tang Zhong, “Look, the monkey is here.”

    Author’s Note: Writing mystery for the first time is really hard. Please be gentle if it’s not professional. qwq Everything is for bringing the couple together!

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