Leaving behind a full table of untouched delicacies, Luo Yi paid in cash and left.
The manager and waitstaff at the restaurant all looked at one another, utterly baffled by this strange customer's actions. They couldn't fathom what he was thinking.
The sky outside was dark and gloomy. Gray-green clouds hung over the city, like they could be swept away by a harsh gust of wind.
Luo Yi stood at the side of the road. He lifted his head slightly and squinted against the daylight that filtered down from between those dark clouds. His eyes gradually began to feel sore and swollen.
He stood there like a mailbox, without moving a muscle. It wasn't until an energetic child accidentally bumped into him that he returned to his senses and began to move towards an underground walkway not too far away.
The underpass was poorly lit. Homeless beggars laid on either side of the tunnel.
As Luo Yi studied these people, the cold indifference in his eyes turned into sorrow.
These days, both spring and autumn were getting shorter. Although it was technically autumn, it was already cold enough to be winter. Each day was colder than the last. The vagrants huddled in the tunnel were either still wearing their summer clothes, and shivering from the cold, or they were wrapped up in filthy blankets snatched from god knows where, all of which emitted unspeakable stenches.
Compared to these people who laid at the bottom of society, Luo Yi was a man who stood tall.
He was dressed in such luxurious clothes that the cost of his outfit would have been enough to get all the vagrants in that tunnel through the winter.
But Luo Yi knew very clearly that he was like them in many ways. He was also a vagrant in life, drifting through each day.
His life had been even more unbearable than theirs.
He'd returned to the country, bathed in the glory of his foreign education, not in order to further develop his career. And he certainly hadn't returned for the sake of bettering his country or anything like that.
Ever since he learned of Bai Ying's 'escape' from prison seven years ago, Luo Yi had lived for only one purpose—to seek revenge for Bai Ying.
Chu Xin of the Chu Group. In that man's chest, Bai Ying's heart still beat.
That healthy heart in Chu Xin's chest had been gouged out of Bai Ying's chest after he was killed by those demons!
Just thinking about that made Luo Yi burn up with so much pain that it felt like his innards were on fire.
How evil did someone have to be to be capable of doing such a thing?
There were so many people registered as heart donors in the world. They were willing to give up their hearts after they passed away, in order to save the life of someone else who was desperately struggling to survive. Their hearts would have been able to help Chu Xin, but the Chu family had been dead set on Bai Ying!
Just because Bai Ying and Chu Xin shared the same blood, Bai Ying had been forced to give up his life for Chu Xin!
Luo Yi had asked 'why' countless times, but no one could ever give him an answer.
When he was young, his grandmother had always smiled and said to him, "Evil will be rewarded with evil, and good will be rewarded with good."
Luo Yi used to believe in that saying, but when he grew up, he understood. That had only been a self-serving lie.
Bai Ying was the kindest person he'd ever met. But Bai Ying had been rewarded with the cruelest fate.
Had the gods ever been kind to Bai Ying, even once?
The Chu family sat atop a mountain of gold. There was nothing their money couldn't buy, and they had done everything in their power to have this surgery performed in secret. If the surgery hadn't been performed in Country B, if a professor from QE University hadn't been on the surgical team, if Konto hadn't helped… Luo Yi might never have learned the full, inhumane truth even if he spent the rest of his life searching for that truth.
Professor Chi Mingyue had been less than forty years old. Back then, he was already recognized as a genius at QE University's School of Medicine. He taught classes and he continued working as a doctor to help the ailing, without ever neglecting one side of his profession. Earlier in life, he'd even been a doctor in war zones, rushing through war-torn countries to provide medical attention to innocent civilians wounded in battle.
Professor Chi's office was filled with certificates of honor from the school, from the government, and from various international agencies, all praising him for his outstanding medical skills and his benevolence.
But who could have known that this kind-hearted doctor had performed at least thirteen counts of illegal heart transplants while saving lives overseas?
The money of a rich man could buy anything. Even the soul of an honorable doctor.
Seven years ago, the heart transplant performed on Chu Xin was Chi Mingyue's fifth illegal surgery. It was this serious, earnest doctor who had carved Bai Ying's heart out of his body.
After putting a few hundred-yuan bills in the donation boxes in the tunnel, Luo Yi walked through the underpass and emerged on the other side.
He was suddenly seized by the intense urge to watch the video of Chi Mingyue confessing to his crimes.
Jingli City wasn't like Dongye City, where a coffee shop could be found every few steps. Luo Yi had to walk a while before he spotted a cafe with an anime character on the sign.
He typically didn't like going to this sort of lively, cutesy place. But there were no other options nearby. This was his only choice.
An upbeat Japanese song was playing inside the cafe. Luo Yi ordered an Americano, then took a seat in a corner and plugged in his headphones to a cell phone he rarely used.
The video he played was very shaky at the beginning. Before long, the image focused on a man in a white coat.
The man was slumped in an examination chair. His eyes were hollow, with tears staining the corners of those eyes.
A cold, mechanical voice sounded out from off-screen. "Did you perform the surgery on Chu Xin?"
The man nodded.
The mechanical voice continued, "What about the heart? Whose heart was it?"
The man numbly answered, "Someone sent by the Chu family. Someone named 'Bai Ying'."
"Why Bai Ying?" the mechanical voice asked.
"They were brothers," the man said.
The mechanical voice was silent for a long while. The images on the screen were almost eerily still.
Luo Yi didn't scroll ahead in the video. His eyes were filled up with a murderous glint. Veins were bulging out from the hand which held the phone.
The mechanical voice finally continued, "How did Bai Ying die?"
The man in the chair was silent for a long moment before he sighed.
The mechanical voice went on, "You knew he shouldn't have died. You knew you shouldn't have performed such an operation. And yet you still took his heart!"
The man opened his mouth, then finally said, "I… I was used to it."
"Used to what?" the mechanical voice asked. "Used to killing people?"
The man lowered his head. "I'm sorry."
"How many other operations like this have you done?" the mechanical voice demanded.
"Thirteen in total," the man said.
"Are the patients all rich and powerful people like Chu Xin?"
The man nodded.
The mechanical voice seemed to tremble while saying, "And are the donors all like Bai… Bai Ying…"
Without waiting for that voice to finish speaking, the man nodded again.
The mechanical voice angrily bellowed, "You're not human!"
The man struggled to stand, finally making his way out of the chair. He slowly sank to the floor and knelt, bowing so low that his forehead touched the ground. "I repent. Can I repent?"
There was another piercingly sharp silence. The mechanical voice finally said, "How do you intend to repent?"
"I'll listen to you," the man said, trembling. "Tell me how to repent. I'll do anything to repent."
"I want you to die!" the mechanical voice roared.
The video stopped there.
Four years ago, a 'quake' hit QE University.
After performing an operation, the famed surgeon and professor Chi Mingyue bowed deeply to the operating room, then walked out into the hallway without even removing his surgical gown.
This was an extremely bizarre action, but no one present at the time could have known that Chi Mingyue was preparing to commit suicide.
So when he climbed over the railing on the roof, no one even reacted in time.
With the muffled sound of a collision, a body of flesh slammed into the ground. A viscous, black blood spread out from the ruined body, like the shadow of a dark soul bleeding out…
No one knew why Professor Chi committed suicide without any warning.
He had clearly just saved a patient who was suffering from a serious illness, and he'd been scheduled to teach at the university later that night. He was even supposed to attend an international academic conference the following week, as the main speaker.
On the fringes of all this commotion, Luo Yi turned around and walked into his own darkness.
Chi Mingyue had been a celebrity at QE University. If nothing out of the ordinary had happened, Luo Yi—with his innate brilliance—would also have been a rising star at QE University.
There were many ways to take revenge. Luo Yi chose the one that made the best use of his own skills.
After a long period of psychological manipulation and hypnosis, he'd finally captured Chi Mingyue in the palm of his hand.
Chi Mingyue had confessed everything to him while crying bitterly, and Luo Yi had told the man that there was only one way to truly repent—and that was to end his life as a doctor, wearing a surgical gown, in front of his patients, his fellow doctors, and even uninvolved spectators.
And so, Chi Mingyue died. But the business of illegal heart transplants wouldn't stop there.
Chi Mingyue was the only one who'd died. There were others with the same skills who were committing despicable acts in the filthiest crevices of the world, using their surgical abilities to earn huge sums of money or power.
These monsters were erasing a 'worthless' life.
And trading it for a 'valuable' one.
Luo Yi didn't care about any of that. He wasn't a saint who was out to punish evil in this world. All he wanted was to avenge his own kind and cowardly gege.
The Chu Group. Chu Linxiong. Chu Xin!
On the matter of Chi Mingyue's death, many rumors and plenty of speculation circled within the industry. Country B's police never learned the truth. Ultimately, they wrote it off as an act of temporary insanity caused by excessive stress.
When Luo Yi returned to the country, he wanted to use the same tactics to make the members of the Chu family repent and commit suicide. However, he found that it was extremely difficult to get close to them. Getting close enough to be able to influence their way of thinking was even more of a challenge.
Even though Chi Mingyue had been a renowned doctor, he had still only been a doctor. He hadn't lived life with bodyguards lurking in every shadow, and his own defenses weren't that sharply honed. Luo Yi had easily been able to slip into his life as a psychiatrist.
However, Luo Yi was met by many obstacles after returning to the country. The first challenge he had to surmount was how to get close to the Chu family.
At the time, Chu Linxiong was still in charge of the Chu Group, and it was difficult to tell which of his warring heirs would ultimately win power in their internal family dispute.
Much to Luo Yi's surprise, Chu Xin—who had received Bai Ying's heart—had given up on his fortune and become a monk at Haijing Temple, outside the city.
Was it because the heart in his chest had come from a person who'd been murdered? Did he feel remorse?
But what good was remorse?
That person who had worked so hard to better his life was no different from a blade of grass, torn up by these dastardly people!
Luo Yi had made his way to Haijing Temple once, posing as a visitor who intended to offer incense.
Chu Xin always had a slight smile on his face, like he was living freely, without a care in the world.
Dominating the psyche of a pampered, spoiled brat like Chu Xin would have been much easier than influencing a man like Chi Mingyue. But after interacting with Chu Xin a few times, Luo Yi changed his mind—it was too easy to simply have Chu Xin kill himself on this desolate mountain. He wanted Chu Linxiong to kill his most beloved son with his own hands!
The four legitimate sons of Chu Linxiong were still warring. Luo Yi ultimately set his sights on Chu Qing.
He was a psychiatrist. Even if he was highly sought after in his industry, he still wouldn't be able to get Chu Qing's attention. In order to crack his way into the Chu family, he had to make his way closer step by step. He didn't hesitate to get himself intertwined with scum like Chu Can.
Chu Qing had inherited Chu Linxiong's ruthless disposition and business sense. Not only did he force several competitors out of business, he also managed to back the aging Chu Linxiong into a corner, after which he truly seized power of their family's empire. Gradually, Chu Qing became the true master of the Chu Group.
Luo Yi used Chu Can as a springboard, launching himself into a position where he could forge a relationship with Chu Qing's assistant Shui Xun.
Chu Qing had already seized power over the Chu family, but he didn't dare let his guard down so easily. He was still worried that becoming a monk was only some ploy on Chu Xin's part, and he was also concerned that the decrepit, half-buried Chu Linxiong still had some trick up his sleeve.
As long as Chu Xin and Chu Linxiong were still alive, there would be unpredictable variables in Chu Qing's bid for power.
But how these two men died was something that had to be decided very carefully. There were unique rules in the families of the rich and powerful. Countless people watched their every move carefully. The slightest mistake would result in a complete loss of power and status.
"I have a way," Luo Yi had said.
Chu Qing's gaze was ice cold, like hardened blades of poison.
"As long as you give me time, and as long as you allow me to 'treat' Chu Linxiong," Luo Yi said, smiling. "I'll be able to get rid of your two biggest problems for you."
Not long ago, Luo Yi was finally able to set foot inside South Spring Manor and stand before Chu Linxiong.
In that moment, he felt as though he were in a trance.
The old demon had aged. His skin was wrinkled, and he had a head of thin, white hair. Although he was well-fed and taken care of, he wasn't much different from any ordinary senior citizen.
Luo Yi tsked in his heart and thought, Ge, how could you have been victimized by someone like this for your whole life? How could you have been killed by these people in the end?
Chu Linxiong gazed directly at Luo Yi with suspicion in his eyes.
After a brief moment of disorientation, Luo Yi schooled his expression back into a normal state. A feigned smile returned to the corners of his lips. "Chu-xiansheng Senior."
"Did Chu Qing send you?" Chu Linxiong laughed coldly. "A psychiatrist? Ridiculous. Is he trying to have me declared insane?"
"Sir, you must be joking. How could Chu-xiansheng think of such a thing?" Luo Yi reassured calmly. "Chu-xiansheng has noted that you've been living all alone and might feel lonely, and when people grow older, it's common for them to experience some emotional turmoil. Although this isn't some major physical illness, it can still affect your health. Chu-xiansheng has your best interests in mind. That's why he's sent me to speak to you."
Chu Linxiong contemptuously retorted, "Talking about emotions? Matters of the heart? What kind of charlatan are you?"
Luo Yi didn't show any signs of irritation. "I'm a psychiatrist at the hospital of Dongye University's School of Medicine, and I'm a visiting professor there as well. Please try to put some faith in me."
After hearing those words, Chu Linxiong once again sized Luo Yi up. "Doctor? Professor?"
In most people's minds, doctors and professors were extremely respectable professionals. They saved lives and helped those who were hurt. They were the engineers of the human soul.
Luo Yi smiled. "Are you willing to trust in me now, sir?"
After a moment of silence, Chu Linxiong actually spat a glob of spit at Luo Yi, then laughed dryly.
Luo Yi dodged the spittle and stood by, looking down at Chu Linxiong.
The corners of Luo Yi's lips were still quirked into a smile, but his eyes were growing colder and colder, as though he were gazing at something that was already dead.
Chu Linxiong laughed so hard that he couldn't catch his breath. It was a laugh that sounded like it was being squeezed out from between a piece of coarse sandpaper and a fire-starting flint.
It almost seemed like Chu Linxiong might stop breathing any second.
But how could a demon die so easily?
Chu Linxiong calmed himself and slowly caught his breath. He looked up at Luo Yi with heavy gloom in his eyes, then wiped the spit away from his chin. "So what if you're a doctor? So what if you're a professor? You're no better than the people who will do anything for money."
Luo Yi knew that his own eyelids twitched, but he still maintained his calm expression. "What makes you say that, sir?"
"You graduated from QE University in Country B?" Chu Linxiong studied the qualifications Luo Yi had placed on the table before him earlier. "All trash."
Luo Yi instinctively balled his hands into fists. His eyes narrowed slightly.
Others wouldn't have been able to understand the true meaning of Chu Linxiong's words, but to Luo Yi that meaning couldn't have been clearer!
Chu Linxiong was subtly referring to Chi Mingyue, the professor who had been perceived as flawless by the outside world.
That 'perfect' person had also been a doctor and a professor, and yet he'd also been a 'slave' to money and power, right?
Chu Linxiong scoffed. "You go back and tell Chu Qing there's nothing wrong with me. I'm not going senile! He wants to control me? Don't even think about it!"
Luo Yi didn't get worked up. He had plenty of ways to deal with an old man who had become isolated from the world.
He wanted to control every aspect of what happened to these people with his own hands. He would guide them towards eternal damnation. All these evildoers had to perish, one by one, in front of the eyes of the masses!
But what Luo Yi hadn't been able to predict was that someone else was taking revenge for Bai Ying as well.
Luo Yi didn't know who this person was.
The first to die was Cao Fenghuai, who'd forced Bai Ying to take the blame for his crime.
The second was Gong Guozhen, who'd taken Bai Ying out of prison.
And not long ago, it was Qin Xiong.
Before hypnotizing Chu Linxiong to learn the truth, Luo Yi hadn't even known that Bai Ying had been raised by the Qin family.
How did this other avenger know Bai Ying so well?
Luo Yi's plan had been thrown into chaos. While he had been focused on getting close to the Chu family, Bai Ying's other foes had died one by one. And Luo Yi could also sense that this other avenger's next target would be Chu Xin.
Call it competitiveness, or call it stubbornness. Either way, Luo Yi was determined. He swore Chu Xin and Chu Linxiong would die by his hands.
He couldn't wait any longer. But right as he made up his mind, Chu Xin was placed under police protection.
The music in the cafe abruptly stopped. Luo Yi looked up.
It turned out the servers were changing shifts. The new employee who'd just clocked in had cut off the Japanese music that was playing and switched over to some old-fashioned net-famous tunes they preferred.
Luo Yi put away his cell phone and got up to leave.
What he didn't know was that the police were waiting for him outside.
Twenty minutes earlier, Ming Shu had received the news. Public surveillance cameras near the Laugh & Talk teahouse had caught sight of someone who was suspected of being Luo Yi.
Earlier, the Serious Crimes Division had already thoroughly searched Dongye City for Luo Yi. They'd found nothing.
Because the 'avenger' had already left Dongye City and made his way to Jingli City.
Police cars had instantly raced off. When he reached his car Ming Shu had hesitated for a moment.
"Captain Ming!" Yi Fei called out.
Ming Shu jumped. Only then did he open the car door.
"What is it?" Yi Fei asked.
"There's a problem." Ming Shu furrowed his brow tightly. "Why would Luo Yi come to Jingli City at this time? His target is clearly still in Dongye City."
As a detective who'd worked on the frontlines of numerous murder cases throughout the years, Yi Fei also felt a bit uneasy. "Does Luo Yi know he's been exposed?"
After a moment, Ming Shu shook his head. "It shouldn't be that, unless Konto in Country B sensed that he was being investigated and told Luo Yi."
"Liu Zhiqin of Luocheng was the one who looked into Konto," Yi Fei said.
"And when Liu Zhiqin investigates someone, he never leaves any traces," Ming Shu agreed. He thought for a moment longer. "Laugh & Talk is located right where Splendor used to be. Luo Yi may have gone there because, for now, he isn't able to make a move on Chu Xin. He might be anxious and uncertain, so he came back here, to the place where Qin Ying worked, to 'catch up' with him."
The police cars sped down the roads. Ming Shu looked out the window at the nearby pedestrians, who all milled about calmly. Then he murmured to himself, "No, that isn't right."
Yi Fei looked over at him. "Hm?"
"Luo Yi is seemingly the one who avenged Qin Ying. He killed Cao Fenghuai's family, Gong Guozhen's family, and Qin Xiong's family in quick succession, and now it's finally Chu Xin's turn," Ming Shu said. "But Luo Yi is a psychiatrist. When psychiatrists want revenge, brutal murders aren't the optimal choice. Luo Yi got close to Chu Can in order to get close to the Chu family, and he did that by using psychological tactics! He's the same as Mou Haiyuan. He wants the sinner to repent!"
"So you think the real killer is someone else?" Yi Fei asked.
Ming Shu suddenly felt a chill. His pupils constricted. "Chu Linxiong traded Qin Ying's life for Chu Xin's life. It's Qin Ying's heart that's beating in Chu Xin's chest. In the eyes of those who loved Qin Ying, Chu Xin is just as unforgivable as Chu Linxiong. If someone wanted revenge, they would definitely target Chu Xin. Luo Yi definitely wants Chu Xin to die. But what if Luo Yi isn't the one who committed those three murders?"
Yi Fei gazed into Ming Shu's eyes, then suddenly realized, "Chu Xin?"
The police cars stopped in an alleyway, and the police silently surrounded the cafe.
"Luo Yi took revenge for Qin Ying because Qin Ying was his most important person. He wants Qin Ying's heart back," Ming Shu said. "But if you think about who was closest to Qin Ying… Chu Xin and Qin Ying shared a mother!"
When he emerged, only to be pinned to the ground, a flash of surprise crossed Luo Yi's face. "You guys?"
Someone shouted, "Police! Don't move!"
Dongye City. Chu Group Headquarters.
As soon as Chu Xin, who hadn't been seen in a long time, stepped through the front doors of the building, the atmosphere became tense.
Up in the offices on the top floor, Chu Qing was dressed in a suit. Chu Xin, meanwhile, was wearing the plain robes of a monk.
The two men stood facing each other, both smiling.
These smiles, however, were both cold and fake.
"What, got tired of ringing a bell all day? Came back to take a look around?" Chu Qing asked. "But you should have cleaned yourself up a bit. At least change your clothes."
"Change my clothes? What clothes should I change into?" Chu Xin's smile grew wider. "The ones you're wearing?"
Chu Qing sneered.
"You simply wear the skin of a beast," Chu Xin continued. He spread his arms and waved them carelessly, letting his long sleeves flap in the air. "How could that possibly be as comfortable as my humble cloth robes?"
Chu Qing didn't get worked up. "Go ahead, talk. What is it? You're my cousin. If you need something, as long as it's in my power, I'll grant your wish."
"Is that so?" Chu Xin donned a mischievous look and merrily said, "I want you to die."
As though anticipating that response, Chu Qing simply shrugged and said, "That's out of my power."
Chu Xin laughed out loud. "Just kidding. I came here today because I want to go see the old man."
Chu Qing's expression shifted slightly. "Don't you always complain about how much he nags? You never want to see him."
"It's been too long since I last visited, I do still miss him," Chu Xin said, narrowing his eyes somewhat. "Cousin, you're not saying that this is also out of your power, are you?"
Chu Qing studied Chu Xin for a moment, then said, "Do you mind telling me what you want to see him about?"
Chu Xin looked almost embarrassed. "It's private."
Chu Qing scoffed coldly, as though finally losing his patience. "Chu Xin, do I need to remind you that the old man is no longer the true head of the Chu family?"
"I know," Chu Xin said. "You're the one in charge now."
"Stray dogs," Chu Qing said, "should behave like stray dogs. Know your place."
Chu Xin sighed and touched his own chest. "Chu Qing, aren't you tired? I haven't been your enemy for the past seven years. I'm no longer your competition. Do you really need to be so wary of someone who has a new heart in his chest? Even if I was ambitious in the past, I no longer have the same heart as the one I possessed before."
Chu Qing furrowed his brow.
"I just felt like seeing the old man on a whim," Chu Xin continued. "A lot of things happened recently, and many people died on Mount Qiyue. Anyone would be affected by those events. There's no telling what'll happen next. Just do me a favor and let me see the old man. I want to talk to him about some things that have been left unsaid for many decades."
An hour later, a convoy of three limousines chauffeured Chu Xin to South Spring Manor.