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    Two hours later, the newly reopened Junyue Grand Hotel resembled a large-scale evacuation scene.

    The hotel manager smiled widely as he bowed and saw off various celebrities and wealthy individuals, his expression tinged with bitterness and anxiety compared to the welcoming smiles earlier. The place where a death occurred is always considered unlucky, and business at the hotel is bound to plummet for the next year or so.

    Many guests, forced to stay just one night, complained loudly about the hotel delaying their flights or causing them to miss important board meetings. As if these were far more important than a human life lost.

    As the revolving door turned, another guest emerged, flanked by four subordinates and accompanied by a beautiful woman.

    The manager, with sharp eyes, immediately recognized him and hurried over like a lapdog. “Mr. Yu, are you leaving as well?”

    “Yes, where’s our car?”

    “The parking garage is currently jammed. It might take a while.”

    Lou Baoguo sneered, “They were all fighting to get in, and now they’re fleeing like it’s the plague. These people are amusing.”

    Zhou Yi added, “They’re well-informed. As soon as they heard it might be a poisoning case, they were ready to climb the walls to escape.”

    Du Lingya, one of the scared guests, clutched Yu Duqiu’s arm, trembling slightly despite the late May sunshine. She whispered, “Duqiu, are you sure you want to take this stranger home? What if he’s the killer…”

    She glanced at the silent new bodyguard behind them.

    Bai Zhao returned her gaze with a cold look.

    “Don’t worry. I’ve had a background check done. His record is clean.” Yu Duqiu patted the back of her hand. “But for safety’s sake, you should stay at your brother’s place for a while. If you want to come to my house, just let Uncle Hong know, and he’ll send a car for you.”

    Du Lingya shook her head immediately. “I don’t want to go back. Isn’t the new house you bought our marital home? Of course, I want to stay with you.”

    At that moment, a young man with curly brown hair, visibly angry, exited the revolving door, scolding his secretary. But his eyes lit up when he saw Du Lingya, and he smiled as he walked over. “Lingya, what a coincidence. Are you leaving too?”

    Although he asked “you guys,” he didn’t even glance at Yu Duqiu.

    Lou Baoguo gave Zhou Yi a teasing look, inviting him to enjoy this dramatic love triangle. Zhou Yi shook his head slightly, signaling him to behave. Lou Baoguo, feeling awkward, suddenly remembered their new colleague and turned to Bai Zhao to pull him into the gossip. But when he turned, he was startled.

    The newcomer had a stern expression and a look as sharp as a sword forged from cold iron.

    So young, yet so grim?

    Despite her fear, Du Lingya maintained the poise of a lady of high society and smiled faintly at Peizhuo. “Yes, another minute and I’d be at my wit’s end. This is terrifying. How could something like this happen… It’s a shame we didn’t get to catch up properly.”

    Yu Duqiu tilted his head slightly, his cheek brushing against Du Lingya’s hair in an intimate gesture. “It’s okay, you can arrange to meet later.”

    Peizhuo seemed to notice his presence for the first time, reluctantly shifting his gaze and greeting Yu Duqiu warmly, “Duqiu, you had me worried all night. I thought you’d be arrested. Thank goodness. I knew you wouldn’t be reckless enough to kill your uncle!”

    “Of course not. I provided some leads, temporarily cleared myself of suspicion, and the police agreed to let me go, though I can’t leave my house. It’s like being under house arrest. If there are any developments in the case, they’ll summon me again.”

    Peizhuo’s eyes gleamed with a noticeable hint of satisfaction. “That’s tricky. What about your business? You can’t run everything from home, can you?”

    “Don’t worry. My mother handles the overseas business now. As for the domestic side… I’ve hired plenty of capable people like you to manage it for me.”

    Peizhuo wasn’t foolish enough to miss the disdain in his words. His face darkened slightly, but not daring to offend him, he awkwardly changed the topic, “Let’s all get together next time. You both went to the US after high school, and I went to the UK. It’s been almost ten years since we last met. It’s rare for us all to be back in the country… too bad Mu Hao isn’t here, otherwise, we could include him too…”

    At the mention of this familiar name, the three of them fell silent for a moment, as if in mourning.

    “Let’s not dwell on sad things,” Peizhuo smiled again. He wasn’t particularly handsome but had good taste and style, making him somewhat attractive. However, standing next to Yu Duqiu, the difference was stark, like comparing a natural pearl to a glass marble—one radiated its own light, the other was man-made and couldn’t compare.

    In reality, most people standing next to Yu Duqiu, this rebellious yet stunningly talented tech genius and business prodigy, would feel their own mediocrity deeply.

    No one likes to admit their mediocrity or inferiority. Envy arises from this, as even the heavens “envy the talented.” How can mere humans achieve perfect goodness and truth?

    “Let’s chat another time. I was supposed to head to San Francisco this morning for a business deal but got stuck here all night and missed my flight. I’ll have to reschedule.” Peizhuo straightened his back, trying to make himself taller, and gave Yu Duqiu a brotherly pat on the arm, “Duqiu, you’re always causing big scenes wherever you go.”

    Yu Duqiu glanced at his arm, then back, and smiled gently. “It’s my fault. How about this, Uncle Hong, arrange for my Gulfstream to take them. They should be able to make it. If not… which company are you dealing with? I’ll call their boss and ask him to wait for you.”

    Peizhuo’s mouth twitched. “No need, I—”

    Yu Duqiu continued sincerely, “Don’t be shy. Business is important. The jewelry industry has been tough these years, especially with the rise of synthetic diamonds. Your market share in China has shrunk to less than 5%, right? It’s rough. Don’t miss any opportunity. Seal this deal, and your brother will see your capabilities and stop treating you like a kid.”

    It was a blatant jab, especially in front of Du Lingya. Peizhuo felt deeply embarrassed but, weighing the importance of this deal, finally chose to swallow his pride. “Alright, thank you. Actually, my brother’s oversight is normal, given my dad’s condition. He can’t look after me…”

    Two hours later, the reopened Grand Hyatt Hotel resembled a large-scale evacuation site. The hotel manager, wearing a strained smile, bowed and bid farewell to the departing celebrities and tycoons. Compared to their grand arrival, his smile now carried a tinge of bitterness and anxiety. A place where someone died would inevitably be deemed unlucky, and the hotel’s business would surely plummet in the coming months.

    Many guests, forced to stay just one night, complained incessantly, grumbling about missed flights and quarterly board meetings as if those were more important than a lost life. The revolving door spun again, and another guest emerged with great pomp, accompanied by four subordinates and a beautiful woman on his arm. The manager, sharp-eyed, immediately went over with a fawning smile, “Mr. Yu, are you leaving too?”

    “Yes, where is our car?” Yu Duqiu asked.

    “The garage is congested right now. You might have to wait a bit,” the manager replied.

    Lou Baoguo snickered, “Everyone was fighting to get in, and now they’re scrambling to leave like it’s the plague. It’s amusing.”

    Zhou Yi added, “They got wind it might be a poisoning case and couldn’t wait to jump the walls and escape.”

    Du Lingya, one of those frightened, clung tighter to Yu Duqiu’s arm and trembled slightly despite the warm late May sun. She whispered, “Duqiu, are you sure you want to take this person of unknown origin home? What if he’s the murderer?” She glanced nervously at the silent new bodyguard behind them.

    Bai Zhao returned her look with a cold gaze.

    “Don’t worry, I had a background check done. His record is clean,” Yu Duqiu reassured her, gently patting her hand. “But for safety’s sake, why don’t you stay at your brother’s house for a while? If you want to come to my place, let Uncle Hong know, and he’ll send a car for you.”

    Du Lingya immediately shook her head, “No, I want to stay in our new house. It’s our wedding home, after all.”

    At that moment, a young man with brown curly hair emerged from the revolving door, scolding his secretary angrily. But his eyes lit up when he saw Du Lingya, and he walked over with a smile, “Lingya, what a coincidence. Are you leaving too?”

    Although he asked about “you,” he didn’t spare Yu Duqiu a glance. Lou Baoguo made a teasing face at Zhou Yi, hinting at the love triangle drama, but Zhou Yi shook his head slightly, signaling him to behave. Lou Baoguo sulked, then remembered their new colleague and turned to pull Bai Zhao into the gossip, only to be startled by his severe expression.

    This young man looked grim and cold as if he were a sword forged from icy iron. Why so bitter and vengeful at such a young age?

    Despite her fear, Du Lingya maintained her poise as a lady of breeding and gave Peizhuo a polite smile, “Yes, another minute here and I can’t take it. This is too terrifying. How could something like this happen? It’s a pity we couldn’t catch up.”

    Yu Duqiu leaned his cheek close to the top of Du Lingya’s head in an intimate gesture, “It’s okay. You can meet up another time.”

    Peizhuo, as if only then noticing Yu Duqiu’s presence, reluctantly turned his gaze and spoke warmly, “Duqiu, I was worried about you all night, thinking you might get arrested. Luckily, you’re fine. I knew you wouldn’t harm your own uncle.”

    “Of course not. I provided some leads, and for now, I’m not a suspect. The police agreed to let me go, but I can’t leave my house. I’m under house arrest until further notice, and they’ll summon me if there are any updates,” Yu Duqiu replied.

    Peizhuo’s eyes flashed with obvious glee, “That sounds tough. How will you manage your business? You can’t work from home all the time.”

    “Don’t worry. My mother handles the overseas business, and as for the domestic side… I have many capable employees like you to manage things,” Yu Duqiu said.

    Peizhuo’s face darkened slightly, sensing the underlying disdain. He couldn’t afford to offend Yu Duqiu, so he changed the topic awkwardly, “How about we three meet up sometime? You two went to the U.S. after high school, and I went to the U.K. We haven’t seen each other in almost ten years. It’s rare for us to all be back in the country… Too bad Mu Hao isn’t around; otherwise, we could have included him too…”

    The familiar name brought a moment of silent mourning among the three.

    “Let’s not dwell on sad things,” Peizhuo smiled, trying to lighten the mood. He wasn’t particularly handsome, but his good fashion sense made him appear somewhat attractive. However, standing next to Yu Duqiu, the contrast was stark—like comparing a natural pearl to a glass marble. The former radiated its own light, while the latter was man-made and incomparable.

    Most people felt ordinary in Yu Duqiu’s presence, a rebellious yet stunning tech genius and business prodigy, highlighting their mediocrity.

    No one liked to admit their mediocrity or inferiority, and envy naturally followed. After all, even fate envied the talented, so how could mere humans be perfectly virtuous?

    “Let’s talk another time. I was supposed to fly to San Francisco for a business meeting this morning but got stuck here all night. I need to reschedule,” Peizhuo said, straightening his back and trying to appear taller. He patted Yu Duqiu’s arm like an old friend, “Duqiu, you’re still the same, always involved in something big.”

    Yu Duqiu glanced at his arm, then smiled lightly, “It’s my fault. Let’s do this, Uncle Hong, arrange for them to take my Gulfstream. They should be able to catch their flight. If not… Who are you meeting with? I’ll call their boss and ask them to wait.”

    Peizhuo’s mouth twitched, “No, it’s fine, I…”

    Yu Duqiu said earnestly, “Don’t be modest. Business is important. The jewelry market has been fiercely competitive these past few years, especially with the advent of synthetic diamonds. Your family’s market share in the country has shrunk to less than 5%, right? Don’t miss any opportunity. Show your brother what you can do, so he won’t treat you like a child anymore.”

    Blatant ridicule, especially in front of Du Lingya, left Peizhuo embarrassed. However, this business deal was crucial, and after weighing the pros and cons, he reluctantly agreed, “Okay, thank you. Actually, my brother’s control over me is normal. You know my father’s situation; he can’t manage me…”

    At this moment, a square-fronted Ghost slowly approached from the garage direction, stopping in front of them under the guidance of a doorman. The hotel manager took over from the doorman, personally opening the double doors, “Mr. Yu, please.”

    “Let’s leave it at that for now. See you another day,” Yu Duqiu, impatient with Peizhuo’s family drama, supported the car door, watching Du Lingya get in. Then, he closed the door, ignoring her startled look through the car window, and turned toward a Phantom parked behind, instructing, “Lou Baoguo, take her home. Zhou Yi, Bai Zhao, come with me.”

    Zhou Yi responded, “Yes.”

    Bai Zhao said nothing and silently headed toward the Phantom.

    Lou Baoguo complained, “Young Master, why do I have to drive? I want to ride in the Phantom too!”

    “Keep dreaming,” Zhou Yi pointed to his scarred face, “Miss Du is already scared. Seeing my face won’t help. The young master wants you to drive because you look friendly.”

    Lou Baoguo was pleased, “I see, no choice then. I guess I’m just better looking than you.”

    By the time he realized there was an even better-looking candidate, the other three had already left.

    Kangping Avenue cuts through the eastern part of the new Jin District, dividing it into northern and southern urban areas. The old city lies to the south, and the new city to the north. The north has higher terrain, with luxury homes built on slopes, becoming sparser and greener as they go higher. At the highest point, modern buildings are no longer visible.

    Paul Fussell’s concept of the “invisible upper class” hides among the lush greenery, overlooking the densely packed buildings and bustling lives below.

    The Phantom drove smoothly on the broad, flat road, weaving through the intersecting street network and slowly ascending.

    “Pop!”

    The champagne cork was pulled, and the clear golden liquid released a fragrant blend of apricot, peach, and vanilla, rich and sweet.

    “Want a glass?” Yu Duqiu asked, holding the bottle.

    Zhou Yi, in the front passenger seat, nodded, “Thanks, young master. This is the bottle Uncle Hong took from the bar last night, right?”

    “Yes, good memory. Since we have it, let’s drink. Celebrate surviving and getting home safely.” Yu Duqiu handed Zhou Yi a glass and turned to ask the other person in the back seat, “Want some? It’s not often I pour drinks myself.”

    Bai Zhao sat upright, his expression serious, “The red ribbon symbolizes victory and joy. I see neither victory nor joy now.”

    “Only a night as a waiter, but you know quite a bit.” Yu Duqiu poured himself half a glass and set the bottle back in the center console. “Still angry?”

    “If your family was killed, wouldn’t you be angry?”

    “My family is hard to kill; they have a team of special forces bodyguards 24/7.”

    Bai Zhao turned his head, looking at Yu Duqiu’s relaxed demeanor, “What if the accomplice who killed my family is sitting next to me?”

    Zhou Yi slowly set down his glass in the front, eyes warily fixed on the rearview mirror.

    Yu Duqiu swirled his glass, the lingering scent of milk complementing his nearly milky complexion and hair, giving an impression of innocence.

    “My rough investigation shows your relationship with Bo Zhimin wasn’t great. Why are you so determined to clear his name?”

    “It wasn’t great. He had a problem, couldn’t have kids, so he adopted me just for someone to care for him in old age. He had a bad temper; I often got beaten and scolded as a kid.” Bai Zhao spoke slowly, “But he adopted me, gave me freedom, so I repay his kindness by clearing his name. Your indifference led to his death, making you an accomplice.”

    Yu Duqiu sneered, “‘Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.’ He merely moved you from one cage to a larger one. What’s there to repay? Besides, he was suspected of crimes and deserved to die.”

    “If he wasn’t guilty, would you have saved him?”

    “Not necessarily.” Yu Duqiu sipped his drink and sighed comfortably, then suddenly asked, “Have you heard of the trolley problem?”

    Bai Zhao frowned, “Yes, a madman ties people to tracks, a trolley’s about to hit them. You can pull a lever to switch tracks, but there’s someone tied on the other track. You sacrificed Bo Zhimin to save more people?”

    Yu Duqiu shook his finger, “Bo Zhimin was one of those tied people. The single person is me. Remember this as a bodyguard: no matter how many are tied to the other track, ensure my safety first.”

    Zhou Yi listened silently in the front, recalling the elder Yu’s instructions: “Protect my grandson no matter what.” He wanted to reply, “Actually, after years as your grandson’s bodyguard, I feel the biggest danger might be him.”

    Bai Zhao bluntly asked, “Do you have ‘morality’ in your worldview?”

    “There’s no absolute morality, like the trolley problem. Any choice brings moral blame.” Yu Duqiu nonchalantly played with a lock of hair, “As a businessman, I choose the lesser loss. A trolley slows down with resistance, might kill a dozen at most. My death would set brain-computer interface research back ten years, especially in drug rehab. Last year alone, 400,000 drug users were caught. If I can reform them, how many lives, families could I save? Do you still think sacrificing a few for myself is immoral? Still think withholding Bo Zhimin’s clues was cold?”

    Bai Zhao countered, “But you used Bo Zhimin as bait and caught no big fish. He might’ve survived and given more clues, but you let the killer get him. Is that a small loss?”

    “You’re hard to deal with.” Yu Duqiu sighed, rubbing his temples. “I admit I misjudged, but I didn’t ‘let the killer get him.’ Don’t think I’m that bad. I had people watching and protecting Bo Zhimin, but he still vanished. If the killer could snatch him under my watch, police wouldn’t help either.”

    Bai Zhao was not buying it: “No matter how you explain it, I still think you are the madman operating the trolley. To you, both the murderer and the victims are just interesting toys.”

    Yu Duqiu was taken aback, then his expression turned into one of stunning appreciation: “I like your analogy.”

    Zhou Yi facepalmed, silently raised his glass, and continued drinking his wine.

    A guy who dared to climb buildings barehanded a hundred meters high calling someone else crazy, and someone being called crazy and actually being happy about it—it was hard to tell who was crazier.

    Behind the canopy of trees, the hidden mansion gradually revealed its imposing appearance. The words “Palace No.1” were carved in large stone letters at the entrance. The intricately patterned solid bronze doors sensed their presence and slowly opened, welcoming the Phantom’s hood ornament, the Spirit of Ecstasy, as it soared in.

    Yu Duqiu finished his drink, his moist lips curved slightly: “However, the analogy could be more accurate: if the murderer is a venomous snake lurking in Pingyi City, then I am the dragon hovering over the city. To the dragon, a snake is merely a worm, not worth fearing. But if there are many snakes, the dragon could be besieged and killed.”

    Bai Zhao picked up on the implication: “You think these three cases weren’t done by the same person?”

    “Just a guess.”

    “What’s the basis?”

    “The methods are too different. In the Rainy Lane case, Wu Min was killed by a clean and swift throat cut—brutal and bloody. The killer also subdued a physically strong detective. I don’t believe Liu Shaojie, a mere thug, has that skill and ability. The real killer is definitely formidable. Killing someone like Bai Zhimin or my second uncle would be as easy as squashing an ant. Why bother with poisoning and disguising it as suicide? I think he wouldn’t stoop to that.” Yu Duqiu, after being serious for a moment, grinned mischievously again, “See, I’m seriously thinking about finding the real culprit, yet you still think I’m an accomplice, little Bai.”

    Bai Zhao’s gaze softened slightly: “It’s unreasonable, but maybe these two killers are accomplices.”

    “Wrong. My guess is three,” Yu Duqiu said.

    Zhou Yi couldn’t help but interject: “Young master, do you mean that the one who killed Bai Zhimin and the one who killed your second uncle are not the same person? Is that possible?”

    Yu Duqiu, propping his chin and tapping his cheek with his forefinger, replied: “Highly likely. Bai Zhimin’s case was meticulously planned: the killer made him disappear, then drowned him, and then the police found hallucinogens in his body—a complete chain of evidence. It looks like he overdosed on ‘Crash’ himself. During this process, the killer remained hidden, committing the crime very discreetly. If it weren’t for my recording, the police might not have reopened this ‘suicide’ case, and even if they did, there would be no leads. But my second uncle’s death was too sudden and high-profile. A little investigation reveals he was poisoned. The crime was crude, as if done on impulse or out of desperation.”

    Zhou Yi suddenly understood, slapping his thigh: “Makes sense!”

    Bai Zhao, puzzled, asked: “If your guess is three people, why did you deliberately mislead the police in the meeting this morning to think it’s one killer?”

    Yu Duqiu innocently replied: “I never said the killer was one person. I just said the three cases are related. If they can’t figure that out, what kind of detectives are they? Besides, it’s just a guess. I still have unresolved parts myself.”

    Bai Zhao and Zhou Yi asked in unison: “What parts?”

    “Last night you told me that Bai Zhimin’s body was found with his ID on him. I didn’t know that detail before,” Yu Duqiu continued tapping his cheek. “It’s very strange. If I were the killer, I would take everything off Bai Zhimin that could identify him and throw him into the sea. That way, even if his body wasn’t eaten by fish and washed ashore, it would be so bloated that the police would need DNA testing to identify him, delaying the investigation and giving the killer time to escape. This sloppy handling of the body contradicts the meticulous planning earlier. I feel the killer deliberately let the police quickly identify Bai Zhimin.”

    Zhou Yi, already feeling confused, asked: “Why would the killer do that?”

    “That’s what I can’t figure out… Hm? Why are you looking at me so intently?”

    Bai Zhao retracted his gaze: “Suddenly, I think you’re very smart.”

    Yu Duqiu perked up: “Fallen for me?”

    Bai Zhao didn’t let the topic stray: “Maybe the killer wanted the police to quickly conclude the missing person case as a suicide to escape detection.”

    “You might be right. What we’re discussing now is all speculation. It’s even possible that Bai Zhimin really committed suicide because my people monitoring him didn’t see any suspicious individuals around him. But you’re a very suspicious adoptive son. Why didn’t you show up for months? Not very filial, are you? If I’d known you were this handsome, I’d have assigned more people to protect your adoptive father.”

    Zhou Yi, feeling awkward, quickly distanced himself from the inappropriate conversation, sitting up straight and directing the driver: “Take the small turn ahead.”

    Driver: “Thanks, but I know the way. I’m a dedicated driver, not a taxi driver.”

    Zhou Yi: “…”

    Bai Zhao remained unmoved: “I moved out after becoming an adult. I happened to be abroad on a business trip for your old classmate’s company during those months. Don’t worry, although I have questions, I still rely on you to find the killer. If Bai Zhimin really was involved in drug trafficking, he deserved to die, but the killer must still be brought to justice.”

    “I like sensible handsome guys like you,” Yu Duqiu smiled. “No matter what happens, I hope you keep your promise and protect me.”

    Bai Zhao softly responded affirmatively.

    The Phantom slowly stopped in front of a manor villa. The driver got out to open the door. Just as Yu Duqiu was about to step out, he heard a question from behind: “What’s the name of the song you’ve been tapping since this morning?”

    Yu Duqiu turned, surprised: “You seem to always be interested in the little details about me.”

    “Never mind then.”

    “Your use of reverse psychology is perfect.” Yu Duqiu turned back, reached out, touched Bai Zhao’s cheek with his fingertips, playfully tapping it, “It’s a military song that Mu Hao liked when he was alive: ‘This world is not peaceful, even in times of peace there are stormy clouds… When the day comes, rest assured motherland, rest assured family, for victory I will courageously advance.'”

    He lowered his eyes and hummed softly, his voice clear and bright. With such a roguish face, singing a song full of righteous spirit seemed incongruous, yet it was strangely moving.

    Before the last note ended, Bai Zhao grabbed his hand and pulled it away from his face: “You like him?”

    Yu Duqiu raised an eyebrow and retorted, “Jealous?”

    “If you have someone in your heart, don’t tease others.”

    Yu Duqiu laughed loudly: “Haha… and you say you don’t like me? Don’t worry, Mu Hao’s old-fashioned type isn’t my preference. I don’t have anyone in my heart, never had, never will—”

    Bai Zhao suddenly yanked hard!

    Caught off guard, Yu Duqiu fell onto the center console. After a moment of surprise, a small flame flickered in his eyes: “Sweetheart, that’s a bit much.”

    Zhou Yi, who had already gotten out of the car and was waiting by the side, saw this and rushed over, only to be stopped by a gesture from Yu Duqiu.

    Bai Zhao remained calm, leaned in close, and pinched his chin, rubbing gently with his rough thumb: “Don’t speak too soon, young master.”

    Yu Duqiu’s eyes widened slightly, then he chuckled in disbelief: “Are you taking yourself too seriously?”

    Bai Zhao didn’t answer. He let go, opened the door, and got out of the car.

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