MADNESS OF THE HEART

Chapter 113: Virtuous (Part Thirty-Three)

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The 'Luo' on the page wasn't the 'Luo' that popped into Ming Shu's mind. But all the names on that list were handwritten, and they had all been written by the same person. It would have been easy for mistakes to be made.

Ming Shu had instantly thought of Luo Yi of the Jiulin Psychology Clinic.

During their last investigation, the police had suspected and looked into Luo Yi. At that time, they learned that the Jiulin Psychology Clinic's most famous psychiatrist was extremely knowledgeable, single, and had studied overseas before returning to the country four years ago.

Four years ago! He'd returned to the country four years ago!

Ming Shu's gaze darkened. The person who had been sending New Year's presents to Qiao Ying had stopped four years ago. Upon realizing that, Ming Shu had deduced that the sender must have returned to the country! While back in the country, financial transactions would have been tracked much more easily. The sender could have been worried about exposing his identity, and thus stopped sending New Year's gifts.

Back when Chu Can had been accused of murder and unlawful detainment, he had claimed that Luo Yi promised to provide him with a psychological certification freeing him from blame. He dragged Luo Yi into that mess with him, and it was undeniably true that Luo Yi had something to do with Chu Can. Based on Chu Can's testimony, it seemed Luo Yi had also taken the initiative to approach Chu Can first.

Why would a psychiatrist with a good job and a respected position in society associate himself with lowly scum like Chu Can?

What was Luo Yi's goal?

Ming Shu had once thought that Luo Yi may have gotten close to Chu Can as a means of cozying up to Chu Qing. In all the Chu family's infighting, Chu Can had always aligned himself with Chu Qing, which meant Luo Yi could have gotten close to Chu Qing by playing nice with Chu Can. As for what Luo Yi might have wanted to accomplish after getting close to Chu Qing, that was still unknown.

But now, Ming Shu could finally string together each of these names, one after another.

If the Luo Yi on this list of tutors was the Luo Yi in Dongye City, then he must have gotten close to Chu Can, Chu Qing, and Chu Qing's assistant Shui Xun as a means of getting into the Chu family to take revenge for Qin Ying!

"This 'Luo Yi'," Ming Shu said, pointing to the name on the paper. "Do you have any impression of this person?"

"Let me see." The officer took the notebook back and frowned down at that page for a moment before nodding. "Yes! At the time, he even told me that I wrote his name wrong. It isn't this 'Luo', but the 'Luo' with the 'horse' radical.

"That English class we organized was pretty casual. There weren't many students who really paid attention. And if the students weren't serious about learning, the tutors certainly wouldn't be serious about teaching," the officer said, thinking back to that time. "The vast majority of our volunteer tutors were college students. They just wanted to get some practical experience or internship credits, so that they could bring something back to school.

"This Luo Yi wasn't yet a college student. He was a recent graduate of a high school in the city, and he wanted to give back to the community by volunteering. Out of all the little teachers who volunteered, he was the most serious one. He was far more outstanding than all those college students. Us old folks were curious, and we asked about his plans once—that was when we learned he had already been accepted into the best university in the capital!"

 

Based on the information provided by this neighborhood official, Ming Shu found his way to Ninth High in Jingli City.

In many cities, the best high school was named First High, but all the best teachers in Jingli City taught at Ninth High. Of course, they were just the 'best' when compared to other teachers in the city. When compared to schools throughout the province, Jingli City's Ninth High could only be considered average. Very few students from Ninth High could get into prestigious colleges, and ones who could test into the best universities in the country were even more rare.

At that time, third-year high school students were currently 'sprinting' towards their college entrance exams. On a wall of 'inspiration' at the school, Ming Shu saw Luo Yi's picture.

Luo Yi was now over thirty years old. The boy in the photo was still a teenager—thin and pale, with bright and sharp eyes.

Even after all these years, he was still the pride of this school, used as an image of encouragement for other students.

But it was highly likely that he was an extremely vicious serial killer.

Upon learning a police officer had come to ask about one of their best students, Lou Yi's homeroom teacher rushed over anxiously. "Something couldn't have happened to that child, right? I heard he went to study in Country B…"

Ming Shu had already looked through the school records and learned that Luo Yi wasn't a native of Jingli City. He had transferred to Jingli City's Ninth High in his final year of high school.

Luo Yi's old homeroom teacher was an older teacher who was about to retire at the end of that year. Although she was very worried about Luo Yi, she didn't ask too many questions. Ming Shu learned from her that Luo Yi's parents had divorced when he was young; neither parent had wanted to raise him, so he'd wound up living with his maternal grandmother.

While Luo Yi was still in school, his grandmother fell into poor health. In order to care for her, Luo Yi voluntarily took two years off from his schooling and got a part-time job to help pay for his grandmother's treatment. Unfortunately, his grandmother didn't make it; she passed away when Luo Yi was eighteen.

After he saw her buried, Luo Yi came to Jingli City's Ninth High to finish high school. According to the school's regulations, Luo Yi was supposed to repeat one year. But Luo Yi was such an outstanding student that the dean of the school gave him the green light to enter the honors third-year class.

One year later, Luo Yi lived up to everyone's expectations and got into the best university in the capital. His entrance exam scores were in the top ten of his province, which set a new record for Ninth High.

Even now, no better student had ever appeared at Ninth High.

 

Elsewhere, Shen Xun received another call from Luocheng's Liu Zhiqin.

"The transaction was routed through a 'zombie' front, but it wasn't a very complicated process, and the hacker behind this was a novice," Liu Zhiqin said. "The account that made the transaction and the associated bank card belonged to a Japanese man named Konto Katsuya. But I don't think this is the suspect you're looking for. He settled down in Country B ten years ago, and he's never been to our country."

"He's the front," Shen Xun said. "The person who was 'bitten' to become our zombie."

"Tsk." Liu Zhiqin laughed. "Right, he was 'bitten'. Clever. I dug deep into this Konto Katsuya's background. He once attended QE University in Country B, where he studied criminal psychology. Konto Katsuya had no connections whatsoever to Qiao Ying or Qin Ying, so if he sent New Year's presents to Qiao Ying, it must have been on someone else's behalf.

"Sending New Year's presents is a very ordinary thing, there was no need for the true sender to cover this up. They didn't need to use a 'zombie' and create so many obstacles for me. Someone was afraid of being investigated, of being found. The person who really sent New Year's presents to Qiao Ying, through Konto Katsuya, was probably a friend who asked for help."

 

Dongye City, Jiulin Psychology Clinic.

"Dr. Luo?" An assistant pushed open Luo Yi's office door, but didn't find Luo Yi inside.

"Strange," the assistant mused, brows furrowed with worry. "Where did he go?"

Dr. Luo had always been very punctual, whether he was seeing patients at Jiulin or going across the street to give lectures at the medical university. He had never been late. Now, it was ten minutes past the next patient's appointment time. Dr. Luo had yet to show up, and his phone was also off.

"Have you seen Dr. Luo today?" the assistant asked after returning to the door and spotting a receptionist who happened to be passing by. "I couldn't reach him. Did he tell you that he wouldn't be coming in today?"

The receptionist shook her head. "Even if Dr. Luo wanted to take time off, he wouldn't tell me."

The assistant stood in place for a while. At a loss, she could only continue trying to call Luo Yi.

At that moment, the members of the Serious Crimes Division pushed open the doors to the Jiulin Psychology Clinic.

"You guys…" The assistant was caught by surprise. She instinctively hung up the phone.

It wasn't the first time criminal detectives had come to Jiulin. The assistant even remembered Fang Yuanhang's face.

"Where is Luo Yi?" Fang Yuanhang asked. He instantly took note of the assistant's hand, which was suddenly hidden behind her back.

"You're looking for Dr. Luo?" the assistant echoed. "He… he isn't here. I'm looking for him too. Is it about the same thing as last time? I thought that was all resolved?"

"He isn't here?" While rushing out to Jiulin, Fang Yuanhang had already received a call and learned that Luo Yi wasn't at home either.

Fang Yuanhang quickly asked, "When was the last time you saw Luo Yi, or the last time you were in touch with him?"

The assistant thought for a long while. "Yesterday afternoon, Dr. Luo had a lecture at the University of Medicine. I went over there with him. The lecture ended at around four, and I came back here by myself. I'm not sure where Dr. Luo went yesterday, after four in the afternoon."

 

Jingli City. 'Laugh & Talk' Teahouse.

A man was sitting in a not-too-spacious private dining room. Two clean sets of utensils were placed on the table.

The man was well-dressed. He'd taken off his long, black coat and hung it up near the table. The private room was adequately heated, so the man was comfortable in a dark gray sweater. He diligently studied the menu.

He flipped a page, then another, then another. It was like he was struggling to decide what to order.

It currently wasn't close to lunch or dinner. Only a few customers were eating in the main dining hall of the teahouse. A server stood by the man in the private room, occasionally letting a flash of irritation flicker through his eyes. In his heart, the server thought, It's just ordering some food. Why is he taking so long?

The man didn't seem to notice the server's displeasure. He continued to study the menu like it was a book of artistic masterpieces.

The server finally couldn't take it anymore. He coldly said, "Call me when you're ready, sir."

"Mm." The man's response was indifferent. He didn't even lift his gaze.

The server left the private room and grouped up with two other servers who worked there. He pointed back at the man inside.

"So well-dressed, obviously rich. Why's he ordering food like an old grandma?"

"He's not worrying over the prices, is he? People do say, the richer you are, the more finicky you are."

"It can't be that. I asked him how many people were in his party, and he said just two. It seems like a date. Counting pennies on a date? That's not going to impress anyone."

"What are you all mumbling about?" the manager called out. "If you've got nothing to do, go see if any customers need anything."

"Chen-jie." The server flashed a saccharine smile. "I'll go right away."

The manager who was called 'Chen-jie' gave the server a warning look. "Behave. I'm running a tight ship here. The last manager may have let you run wild, but I won't."

The servers all flattened out their smiles and scampered off.

'Laugh & Talk' had opened up three months ago. Business wasn't flowing all that smoothly yet.

That location used to be a hot pot store. The owner of the hot pot store couldn't keep the business going anymore, and had transferred the shop to the new owner. Most of the waitstaff hadn't changed; they were still waiters from the old hot pot store.

The shop was situated in a bustling area that saw a lot of visitors. Milk tea shops and internet-famous snack shops had operated there in the past. And twelve years ago, Jingli City's famous seafood restaurant 'Splendor' had been located there as well.

But as the city developed, old buildings were torn down. The old Splendor building had been demolished a long time ago. Laugh & Talk was situated in a building that had only been constructed two years ago.

The man in the private room finally finished studying the menu and called the server back in to order.

The server sourly scribbled down his order, but his expression grew more and more surprised as the man continued. Finally, the server exclaimed, "Sir, you've ordered everything on our menu!"

Wasn't this just a party of two? They couldn't possibly eat that much!

The man lifted his head. "Are there any dishes that aren't available?"

"No, it's not that," the server said. He glanced at the two sets of utensils on the table. "Let me just confirm, you're a party of two?"

The man nodded. "Correct."

"If you're just a party of two, you don't need to order so much," the server said. "It'll be a waste."

"That's fine." The man closed the menu. "Just serve them when they're ready."

Just as they thought they would be able to take a break, the kitchen staff became hectically busy again after this man ordered everything on the menu.

Soon, the dishes began to arrive.

The man didn't move to touch his chopsticks. He only sat there and watched as each dish was served.

The server finally couldn't help but ask, "Sir, when will your friend be arriving?"

"My friend?" the man echoed.

"Right," the server said. "Because if you'll still be waiting for a while, we won't rush to bring everything out. Some of these dishes won't taste quite right if they get cold."

The man flashed a small smile. "Just bring everything when it's ready."

"But…" The server tried to explain again, but was interrupted by the man.

"It'll just be me."

The round table in the private room was completely full of food now, yet the man hadn't touched a single dish. Whatever state the dishes arrived in was the state they remained in. Not a single plate could be cleared away. The server thought this man was extremely strange, but he could only haul in an extra table to fit the rest of the dishes.

Once the final dish was served, the server left after saying, "Please enjoy your meal, sir."

The private room suddenly fell silent. Only the fragrant scent of food intermingled in the air.

The man stood up and looked down at all the dishes in the room. After a long while, he let out a slow, long sigh.

A long time ago, someone had said to him, "Little Yi, you'll come back for New Year's, right? When you do, I'll invite you to Splendor. We'll order enough food to fill up a whole table."

That warm and gentle person, that almost cowardly person, that person who'd endured endless suffering yet always remained kind… was long gone from this world.

The man in the private room took a few steps back and leaned against the wall. He took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.

His vision blurred. It was almost like the sights before him would change once his vision cleared, almost like Laugh & Talk would no longer be Laugh & Talk, but would transform into the bustling Splendor once again.

 

Fourteen years ago.

In order to make sure his grandmother got the best treatment for her illness, Luo Yi had taken a break from school and moved from Jiangshu to Jingli City for work. His grandmother was at the hospital there. Luo Yi rented a thin bamboo mat and blanket from the hospital. Like many other family members, he slept on the floor outside the hospital rooms.

His parents were divorced. One had disappeared from his life a long time ago, and the other was living near the coast. Neither were willing to return or send money.

Luo Yi had already used up most of their savings. He worked two jobs every day. By day, he moved building materials at a construction site and was paid daily. By night, he worked as a waiter in a nightclub. Truth be told, even with his wages from both jobs, he couldn't cover his grandmother's expensive hospital bills.

His grandmother's eyes were always tear-stained those days, like she was just waiting for death.

Luo Yi clasped her hand in his own and pleaded with her, "Please let me do my filial duty."

Before his grandmother fell ill, Luo Yi had also worked part-time jobs, but he'd never done such strenuous labor before. One day, on the construction site, he really couldn't stay on his feet anymore. As he was near collapse, he was helped up by a young man who didn't look much sturdier than him.

This man's name was Bai Ying. He was covered in sweat from head to toe, and he looked quite filthy.

Of course, Luo Yi himself was also covered in dirt and dust.

Bai Ying asked the site manager for a break, then brought Luo Yi to the community clinic. Not only did he rush out with Luo Yi, at the cost of interfering with his own work, he also paid for Luo Yi's IV drip.

"You're so young, and you're already working?" Bai Ying brought over some food he'd made at home. "Here, you should eat more when you're unwell."

Luo Yi was too embarrassed to accept the offered food, but Bai Ying shoved the box into his hands.

"We're workmates," Bai Ying insisted. "No need to be shy with me."

"Why are you working at that construction site too?" Luo Yi asked.

Bai Ying shrugged. "I don't have an education. When I was a kid, I was 'undocumented'. Do you know what that means? It means I didn't have an official ID and couldn't go to school."

Luo Yi hadn't ever interacted with Bai Ying before that. Now that he was sitting with Bai Ying and studying him closely, he noticed Bai Ying actually had a very delicate face.

After that, the two of them gradually became closer.

Bai Ying learned that Luo Yi had taken a break from school to take care of his grandmother, and he felt that was such a shame. Every day, he brought two servings of lunch to share with Luo Yi. He would even sometimes help Luo Yi do his work. When he had time, he would also go to the hospital to keep Luo Yi's grandmother company.

"I really don't even know how to thank you," Luo Yi said. At his age, what he hated most was owing anyone anything.

Bai Ying smiled and said, "Then how about you teach me English? Your English must be really good."

Naturally, Luo Yi's English was indeed quite good. But he was more than just book smart. He understood right away that Bai Ying only said that to give Luo Yi a way to feel better about receiving so much help.

There were some lives that couldn't be prolonged even with good medicine and the hopes of loved ones; Luo Yi's grandmother passed away in the fall. Bai Ying rushed over to help with the funeral arrangements. He was worried Luo Yi wouldn't be able to move past his grief, and even planned on inviting Luo Yi to live with him for a short while.

"I'm fine." Luo Yi didn't look particularly heartbroken. "I did what I was supposed to do, as her grandson."

Bai Ying was a little surprised. He immediately wrapped his arms around Luo Yi and let Luo Yi bury his head against his shoulder. "You're just a kid. You don't have to be strong all the time. If you want to cry, go ahead and cry. Your heart will feel lighter once you let it all out."

Luo Yi tensed, then trembled lightly.

Soon, tears began to wet Bai Ying's shoulder.

Bai Ying murmured, "Little Yi, you have to live well. Your grandmother is watching you from above."

After everything was taken care of, Luo Yi returned to school. With his outstanding grades, he managed to receive a scholarship from Ninth High.

During Luo Yi's final year of high school, Bai Ying seemed even more anxious than him. He often brought chicken soup or fish soup to the school for Luo Yi.

Luo Yi would always laugh and say, "Ge, eat more yourself. I don't need this stuff. You don't have much money anyway, don't spend it so carelessly."

"What do you mean you don't need it? You think your classmates aren't drinking chicken soup and eating fish? Eating fish makes you smarter," Bai Ying said while taking out the food he'd packed into thermoses. "You're just a kid, don't worry about money. I have enough money for just this."

"I'm an adult already," Luo Yi said.

"You're still in school, so you're still a kid," Bai Ying retorted cheerfully. "You still need to get into college, then get your doctorate degree, then make a name for yourself!"

When Luo Yi received his college acceptance letter, he told Bai Ying before anyone else.

Bai Ying was as ecstatic as if he'd been the one who got into college himself. He immediately dragged Luo Yi out to celebrate with hot pot.

During the summer before he was due to go to the capital for college, Luo Yi continued to work part-time and also signed up to volunteer as a tutor for a community class where locals could learn English for free.

Among all the tutors, Luo Yi was the one who took his work the most seriously.

And of all the students, Bai Ying was the one who took his studies the most seriously.

However, because he'd never attended school in the past, Bai Ying wasn't especially bright. Even though they studied together until Luo Yi had to leave for college, Bai Ying never memorized many words.

"It's okay," Luo Yi said. "I'll continue to teach you when I come home during my break."

Bai Ying was thrilled. "Go on and study hard. When I get rich, I'll visit you at the capital."

After going to college, Luo Yi met plenty of bright and even 'outstanding' people. But Bai Ying, a former 'undocumented' child who couldn't even read out a full sentence in English and was so ordinary in every way, didn't fade in Luo Yi's heart. In fact, he only glowed more and more brightly.

During the most difficult times in Luo Yi's life, Bai Ying had helped him. Bai Ying had sat with him through countless IV infusions. He'd brought Luo Yi meals, he'd helped take care of Luo Yi's grandmother, and he'd unhesitatingly given Luo Yi a shoulder to cry on.

Luo Yi had called Bai Ying 'ge', but only Luo Yi knew exactly how precious that 'ge' was to him.

Before Luo Yi had been able to spread his wings and fly, Bai Ying had already become his most important person.

During the New Year's break, Luo Yi had to stay at his university for schoolwork. He was unable to return to Jingli City.

Over the phone, Bai Ying said, "Don't worry, just focus on your studies. It doesn't matter if you come back or not. Oh, by the way, I found a new job. It's at that restaurant, Splendor!"

Luo Yi knew about Splendor. He'd had a wealthy classmate during his third year of high school, and that classmate had hosted a birthday party at Splendor.

"You definitely won't be able to come back over summer break either. There are lots of job opportunities in the capital in the summer," Bai Ying mused. He thought for a moment, then said, "Next New Year's, then! I'll take you to Splendor, and we'll eat the best seafood in all of Jingli City!"

The next year, Luo Yi was even busier. His professors all considered him an excellent student, and he was given the opportunity to study abroad with his mentors and upperclassmen. He stayed overseas for eight months.

When he returned to the country, his advisor gave everyone a vacation. Luo Yi rushed back to Jingli City to surprise Bai Ying, but he soon learned that Bai Ying had been sentenced to fourteen years in prison for aggravated assault resulting in death.

Luo Yi didn't believe for a second that Bai Ying would kill someone. He visited Bai Ying, but Bai Ying only smiled and told him everything was fine. He urged Luo Yi to go back to school and focus on his studies.

"You're suffering, aren't you?" Luo Yi demanded fiercely. "Who did this to you?!"

"I was the one who made a mistake," Bai Ying stated gravely, in a rare moment of seriousness. "Don't worry about me. I'm earnestly repenting here, and I'll try to get my sentence reduced. I shouldn't have to serve the full fourteen years. Little Yi, leave this matter alone. Let's make a deal, okay? When I get out, you come pick me up. By then, you'll be a respectable and successful adult."

Luo Yi saw that Bai Ying was pleading with his eyes. He saw purity and weakness in those eyes.

Bai Ying was doing his best, even with cowardice in his heart, to protect the people most important to him..

Luo Yi knew he was being protected by Bai Ying as well.

They had all once struggled at the bottom of society. How could Luo Yi not understand?

He stood up and bowed deeply to Bai Ying. "Ge, I'll listen to you. I'll wait for you to get out. But I want to ask you to promise me something in return—wait for me to become strong."

As he was led away by the prison guards, Bai Ying smiled back at Luo Yi with tears in his eyes. "Everything will get better for us all."

Back in the capital, Luo Yi threw all his energy and focus into his studies. He couldn't wait to grow up faster. He successfully got into QE University, a prestigious college in Country B, but then more bad news came from Jingli City.

Bai Ying had escaped from prison.

How could his weak, cowardly gege have escaped from prison?

Bai Ying would never break out of prison. Someone had done something terrible to him!

Luo Yi's diligence and perseverance all collapsed in an instant. He rushed back home, only to find the police brutally interrogating Bai Ying's adoptive father Qiao Ying.

Everyone said that Bai Ying was a murderer and that Bai Ying had escaped from prison. Only Luo Yi and Qiao Ying believed that Bai Ying wasn't that sort of person.

Later that year, the most prestigious professor at QE University's School of Medicine, Chi Mingyue, performed a heart transplant operation, which was conducted in secrecy. The recipient of the heart was Chu Xin of the Chu Group from Dongye City, and the one who'd provided the heart was an illegal immigrant.

After countless sleepless days and nights, Luo Yi finally uncovered the truth.

And that truth was like a rusted knife that tore a thousand holes through his soul.

"Splendor is already gone," Luo Yi said, in the private dining room. "This is a new restaurant. All these dishes are ones you haven't tried before. I ordered them all. You try them, and see which ones you like best."

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