Volume 1: Case 502 – The Intoxicated Frozen Corpse
“Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful”
Edited by Beth
“— don’t move.”
Just like the saying ‘open sesame’ from fairytales, the moment the command was given, Jiang Ting went motionless.
Even his thoughts seemed to have frozen; his mind temporarily blanking-out.
Then, the entire railings distorted outwards, and Yan Xie fell from the sixth floor!
Everything happened within a blink of an eye. As Ah Jie lost his balance, he suddenly reached out and grabbed the top of the railing. He slid downwards but then heaved himself up again. As for Yan Xie, who was blindsided by what had happened, he ended up falling over.
It was said that during that brief moment before a person’s death, all their treasured memories would flash before their eyes. However, at that moment, Yan Xie’s head was completely empty. Nothing appeared and he had no time to think about anything else.
Instinctively his hands began scrambling as soon as the ground fell from under his feet. He managed to hook onto the edge of a concrete wall by the tips of his fingers of one hand, but it was ultimately unable to support his entire weight. This catch only managed to slow down his fall, and in that instant he managed to grab the tilting railing with his right hand— clank!
The roof was on the sixth floor, twenty metres away from the ground.
The hollow railing smashed against the concrete floor, bending at a precarious angle. With one hand clutching onto it, Yan Xie dangled midair.
Yan Xie’s cry lodged in his throat. All the pores on his body expanded simultaneously and cold sweat gushed out— at this very moment, he learnt that cold sweat as not just an adjective.
All the emotions bubbling up from being on the verge of death was contained in that one word. Yan Xie groped about with his other hand and managed to grab the railing. But just as he was about to pull himself up onto the roof, he felt a sudden and intense pain in his fingers; he nearly let go—
Someone was stomping the crap out of him!
“We haven’t seen each other for a few years, how have you been?”
Jiang Ting froze where he was. The gun’s muzzle pressed against the back of his head and slowly shifted over to his ear. Following the curve of his face, it traced down his jaw and then up to his cheek like a lover’s caress, then it stopped at his temple.
That voice drew closer, whispering into his ear, “Are you afraid of death?”
Strand by strand, the hair around Jiang Ting’s temple dampened. A droplet of sweat glided down his cheek to his chin.
That devilish, enchanting voice continued by asking, “Are you afraid of that cop falling to his death?”
Not far away on the edge of the roof, Ah Jie was stomping heavily on Yan Xie’s fingers. He stepped away to search for something, eventually bending over and picking up a sharp rock.
“We weren’t planning on causing his death. If it wasn’t for you, this story would have had a different beginning all those years ago…”
Jiang Ting took a step forward only to hear a click from the gun; the bullet was now loaded into the chamber!
“I said don’t move.” The owner of that voice bantered.
— but right at that moment, under the night sky, a police siren could be distinctly heard in the distance. In the wind, the sound gradually sharpened. The reinforcements were here!
“… fire the gun then.” Jiang Ting spoke coldly. His chest heaved, exhaling a searing breath tinged with the taste of iron. Inch by inch, he lifted his hand and wrapped his fingers around the muzzle. Enunciating every word, “Shoot. Don’t be a coward.”
Then he fiercely pushed the gun aside and leapt away!
Maybe there was the sound of a gun firing, maybe there wasn’t. In the moment of chaos, no one paid any attention to it. Meanwhile Ah Jie raised the rock up, aiming it savagely at Yan Xie’s already battered fingers. But in the next second, he was hit from behind by Jiang Ting!
With the usual skills of an assassin, it wasn’t usually possible for him to be attacked from behind. However, Ah Jie did not expect that Jiang Ting would lunge over. He was caught off guard. The two of them tumbled away from the edge and collided with the door leading to the stairwell. The rusty lock was unable to hold up against the force of the collision. With a crash the metal door flew open. Jiang Ting, together with Ah Jie, tumbled straight down the stairs.
Gritting his teeth, Yan Xie clambered back onto the roof after dangling six floors away from the ground. As he rubbed his eyes incessantly, he staggered forward and started chasing. Just as he took a couple of steps, he heard — bang!
The bullet caused shards of gravel to scatter about, hitting the ground right next to his feet!
Yan Xie turned his head around. In the dark, a figure was standing metres away, and he was clearly holding a gun.
That gun happened to be pointing accurately at him.
“…!” As they tumbled, Ah Jie swore, but it couldn’t be heard clearly. Just like a sandbag, he was dragged down the stairs, and in his panic he only had time to protect the back of Jiang Ting’s head with his hand. Thud! They knocked heavily into the concrete wall on a bend.
Fragments from the concrete wall rained down upon them, scattering across their bodies.
The police siren grew louder and louder until they could discern that it was rapidly getting nearer. However, Jiang Ting couldn’t hear anything, it was as if his ears had been muffled by water. His left elbow hung at an abnormal angle and drops of blood welled up from his throat.
In his trance, he could feel the ground shaking. Someone was walking over.
— who was it?
Jiang Ting wanted to take a look. He put his utmost effort into opening his eyes, but in the dim lighting of the stairwell, everything in his vision was wavering tremendously. Shuddering, he gasped for air as his consciousness faded; feeling like a giant invisible hand was dragging his soul into the abyss.
His hand slowly drooped, and in the end, before he could make out who was walking towards him, he descended into a bottomless darkness.
In a midsummer evening, the sky looked as though it was aflame.
A little boy traversed the field of gold, and the glow of the sunset reflected upon the huge peachwood doors of the theatre. The luxurious chandeliers were dimmed, the big red curtains half-falling and empty seats stretched out beyond his line of sight. He carefully wrapped his ragged coat tightly around him, crouching behind the bannister on the second-floor box, watching the stage between the gaps.
From behind the curtains, an upright silhouette of a violinist could be seen. It belonged to a boy the same age as the little peeping tom.
I’ve seen the world
Done it all
Had my cake now
And Bel Air now
The tuxedo and leather shoes of the violinist glimmered under the lights. Suddenly, he looked up towards the second floor and accurately met the eyes of that little peeping tom, then a small smile appeared on his face.
The melody drifted through the air of the theatre, winding out into distance and time.
A little boy traversed the field of gold. The ears of wheat, like Moses parting the sea, fell backwards on each side. The wind blew past and the evening star twinkled brightly. His companion of the same age was standing at the edge of the cliff. With his right arm stretched out in the wind, he caught him in his arms as he ran over, and pressed a kiss on his black hair.
The setting sun cast a shadow of their figures that were touching each other, and dyed the mountain range gold.
Hot summer nights, mid July
When you and I were forever wild
The crazy days, city lights
The way you’d play with me like a child
“Say that you’ll never betray me, and I’ll take you away.”
“I will never betray you!”
The evening wind carried the oath away. Twilight descended upon them, dark clouds gathering quickly, and the gold and red colours were gradually replaced by azure and pale blue. An enormous city lit up bit by bit in the horizon.
Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful？
In the dreamscape, Jiang Ting grew taller, becoming an adult. He opened his arms, traversing the smoke of the explosion, allowing his body to fall freely.
Will you still love me when I’ve got nothing but my aching soul？
That figure on the cliff drew further and further away, becoming tinier and tinier. Jiang Ting saw him extending his hand towards the direction he was falling in, but the whistling winds of earth swept past those fingers, and behind him was a vast expanse of sky illuminated by a raging fire.
The melody was drawn out, whirling about, while the years flashed by like smoke and clouds. Jiang Ting stared at him, raising the gun, aiming at that rapidly shrinking figure above him and pulled the trigger—
“I know you will—” He heard someone singing in the wind.
——You will still love me when I’m no longer beautiful.
The next second, the bullet curved back through time. Dripping with blood, it pierced through his own heart!
Cough cough cough!
“Blood pressure normal, breathing normal.”
“Quick, inform the Criminal Investigation Unit!”
Jiang Ting could not stop coughing. He was groggy and just wanted to sit up but kept on being stopped by many different hands. In the chaos, Yang Mei shrieked, “Jiang-ge, are you ok? No, don’t move! Someone come quick!”
Her sharp cry pierced through the noise, so distinct it hurt the ear. A pair of strong hands then reached out and pressed Jiang Ting back onto the hospital bed.
“He’s fine,” Yan Xie spoke solemnly. “He has a slight concussion, don’t let him get up.”
Jiang Ting’s consciousness drifted between dream and reality. His brain was torn in two. As he lay on the bed, he felt like he was also falling from a cliff. The intense vertigo made him retch several times, and the nurse swiftly gave him an injection.
This injection was fairly effective, the drug quickly pulling his confused soul back to reality. Many minutes later, it was as though his soul had finally landed. Jiang Ting abruptly exhaled the air out of his lungs, dazedly opening his eyes.
“… It’s not too serious. Just that the patient’s body is really too weak. He needs a few days of bed rest to recover properly…”
Jiang Ting moved his left hand and the pain shot right through him. His hand was immediately held down by Yang Mei, and he could only use his right hand instead to pinch the centre of his brows hard. Through the pain, he barely managed to squeeze out, “Yan Xie?”
Yang Mei had not expected that those would be his first words and paused instantly.
Yan Xie gestured to the doctor, interrupting him. He expressed his understanding and immediately walked over, “How are you feeling?”
His vision gradually focused, and only then could Jiang Ting see that he was lying in a hospital ward. The sky was getting dark so a day had most likely passed since he was admitted.
Yang Mei had definitely received a notification in the middle of the night and came running over. Currently her eyes were slightly red, looking extremely worried. A few of her subordinates working at KTV were stopped outside of the ward.
Yan Xie’s eyes had been flushed clean by the emergency services. Bandages were wrapped around his fingers and hands; the edges faintly stained with blood.
“I’m fine.” Jiang Ting couldn’t help but cough a couple of times after speaking. He nodded slightly at Yang Mei, his voice hoarse, “You go first.”
Jiang Ting raised a hand and stopped her.
Yang Mei was full of unspoken criticism that she dared not voice. She could only frown and glare at Yan Xie, standing up and saying her goodbyes resentfully.
The doctor led the nurse out of the room. Once the door clicked shut, there was only the two of them left.
Jiang Ting’s dislocated left arm had already been secured by a triangular bandage. He leant on the snowy white soft pillow on the bed, the collar of his hospital gown gaping loosely. As it was too wide, it made him look ill and pallid, as well as extremely soft and slender.
Yan Xie asked, “You’re sure you don’t want to sleep a little longer?”
With his eyes half-shut, Jiang Ting rested for a moment before shaking his head.
“Got it. This time, if it wasn’t for you, I would have likely reached the end of the line.” Yan Xie casually pulled a chair over to the bed and sat down. His attitude was a little careless, as though nothing had happened, and he smiled, “I didn’t think that your speculation about criminals trying to interfere with the police investigation would be right. Fortunately, we were the first to re-con Hu Weisheng’s hideout, and acquired a large number of obsolete drug manufacturing tools. Now, the city bureau is working overtime to interrogate that Hu fellow. Say, the two of us can be considered to have shared a life and death experience, I didn’t expect…”
Jiang Ting asked, “He ran away?”
The tip of Yan Xie’s eyebrow twitched. He noticed the pronoun Jiang Ting used — he.
It was not them.
“He certainly ran away.” Yan Xie huffed. Sighing, “I underestimated them, nearly dying under that fellow’s hand. After you knocked him down, I climbed back up onto the roof. Only then did I discover that the suspect had an accomplice, and that person was even holding a gun. He fired next to my foot, it was really damned dangerous.”
Jiang Ting had truly fallen ill. He could not focus his attention, and so he did not conceal the subtle change in his expression. “Then?”
“Then nothing much happened after that. That accomplice and I stood facing each other for almost half a minute and reinforcements from the city bureau arrived at the scene with their siren. When that person heard the arrival of the police cars, he didn’t go on fighting and instead entered the stairwell you fell into with his gun.
There was no change in Yan Xie’s voice. He paused for a moment, and looked straight at Jiang Ting.
“At that moment, you were still facing the assassin. Afraid that something would happen to you, I quickly rushed in as well. The stairwell was very dark, and just as I ran a few steps down, I saw—”
Yan Xie deliberately stopped his narration. As expected, Jiang Ting immediately enquired, “You…”
Then, unexpectedly, Yan Xie realised that what Jiang Ting was asking about was not about this topic. He even seemed uninterested in the semantics of the situation.
What Jiang Ting instead asked was, “Did you see his face?”