MADNESS OF THE HEART

Chapter 117: Mad Wolf (Part One)

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A deserted village. One winter night. With the lonely moon hanging high in the sky.

The low, squat houses were bathed in cold moonlight, like countless corpses that had long since breathed their last. All that was left for them was to rot and decay with the passage of time.

The air was cold and damp. When it clung to a person's skin, it gave off an unshakably haunting sensation.

Wind swept through the barren treetops, whistling out a bone-chilling tune. A thin figure suddenly ran past the 'corpses' lining the streets. Black rain boots crunched the gravel and dirt underfoot, kicking up a thin cloud of dust.

The figure belonged to a young woman.

She was wearing a windbreaker with a hard-to-discern color. Her hair wasn't very long; it was tied back in a low ponytail. A fanny pack was tied around her waist. While she ran towards the outskirts of the village like her life depended on it, she kept looking over her shoulder time and again. In her frantic sprint, her ponytail started to come loose. Every time she looked back, her hair whipped her in the face.

Through those fine strands of hair, her sharp gasps shot out and pierced the air. Her eyes were full of terror.

"Ah—!"

With a cry of pain, the woman's right foot struck a stone pit. She completely lost her balance and heavily collapsed onto the ground.

At that moment, a tall figure, stretched out like a ghastly ghost, appeared in the direction from which she had run not long ago.

With the moonlight behind her, the woman could see that this figure was wearing a knee-length cloak. The figure held a long stick in one hand, which was neatly adorned with embedded nails. It looked like a wolfstooth club that could very easily claim a person's life.

The woman couldn't spare a moment to think of her injured leg. She struggled to crawl up from the ground, whimpering and gasping with pain as she stumbled forward and continued to flee.

The cloaked figure emerged fully from the shadows. And above that cloak… wasn't a human head!

Sharp ears. A long snout. The figure had the head of a wolf sitting atop the collar of its cloak!

Under the bleak moonlight, the sound of a wolf's howl suddenly rang out. The figure sprinted forward in an upright position, faster and faster, like it was being swept along by the wind blowing through this abandoned village.

The woman couldn't help but look back again and again. Each time, the terror in her eyes grew more obvious.

The beast was laughing. It was such a bizarre sound that it could make a listener's bones tingle.

"Don't come any closer!" the woman shouted desperately. "Stay away!"

The village was being left farther and farther behind them. The monster with a wolf's head and a human's body finally neared the woman.

It lifted the wolfstooth club in its hand and violently swung it down at the screaming woman!

Wham—

The day broke. Sunlight split the sky like a pair of hands shredding the facade of stillness that reigned in the night.

The monster retreated to its own room and stuffed a deflated plastic object under its bed—that was the wolfstooth club that had looked so terrifying in the dark. The figure then took off the wolf's head mask it wore, rubbing at its sweaty and matted hair.

A flurry of footsteps sounded outside. The man in the room heard someone ask, "Who died last night?"

After thoroughly hiding the props, the man wiped his face and opened the door.

"Ling Long isn't in her room," said a serious-looking, bespectacled man. "Looks like Ling Long died last night."

At that moment, the short-haired woman who'd left the cabin early in the morning rushed back, holding a card in her hand.

"Villager." The man who wore glasses took the card. "Where is she?"

"Here!" The woman who had 'died' appeared in the doorway. She had tied her hair back in a ponytail again. Her skull, which should have been smashed to pieces, was perfectly intact.

She even wore a smile and had a rosy glow in her cheeks.

"But I'm 'dead' now. I died without a word in the middle of the night, so now I can only stand by and watch you guys play." The woman willingly walked over to a corner and stood there, without uttering another word.

The eight 'survivors' gathered outside the cabin near a dry reservoir. They started to debate over who was the werewolf who had 'killed' Ling Long last night.

Ling Long—the woman with the ponytail—sprawled out in the window and watched on with keen interest. She looked like she was listening in on this conversation that was about her, but that she couldn't take part in. However, her eyes were fixed on only one person.

The man who'd swung the plastic wolfstooth club at her head.

In the night, the man had worn a wolf's head and hadn't revealed his face to her. But she'd already determined the identity of the 'killer' based on his figure.

When she received a 'villager' card at the start of the game, she had originally been a bit down. When playing a werewolf murder game, who wouldn't want to be assigned the role of the werewolf? Or at least the role of a healer? Even a useless role like 'town drunk' would have been more interesting than 'villager', which came with no skills.

But if that person was the one who'd killed her, then it wasn't a complete loss for her to have drawn this card.

With that thought in mind, she smiled giddily.

The debate went on for more than ten minutes. Finally, a man dressed like a cowboy stepped up and said, "Let's start the vote. Be good and don't abstain. If we don't vote to 'kill' a werewolf during the day today, the wolves will kill again and basically slaughter all the rest of the innocents."

A total of eight people voted. Among them, seven voted for player #2, Yan Huang.

Yan Huang was shocked, and everyone else started to laugh.

"When you die during the day, you can leave behind some final words," the short-haired woman said with a laugh. "May we ask what you have to say?"

"Wait, no, why are you all voting for me?" Yan Huang furrowed his brow tightly. His face filled up with irritation. "I was the one who just gave you guys some logical explanations. Would a werewolf do that? Are you guys working together? You're colluding against me?"

"Calm down," the cowboy said, trying to smooth things over. "If you want to blame someone for this, you can only blame the villager you killed."

Suddenly being called out, Ling Long straightened up in the window where she was lying and pointed at her own face with big, wide eyes. "Huh?"

The cowboy said, "Ling Long looks so happy. What kind of 'dead' person is that happy? If she hadn't been whacked off by a big, handsome guy like you, could she be so happy? So, buddy, you're obviously a werewolf. We've made no mistake."

Ling Long was stupefied. It was only then that she realized she had been too obvious. She immediately put her hands together and bowed apologetically to Yan Huang a few times.

Yan Huang obviously didn't accept that explanation. He furrowed his brow again and said, "It's no fun if you guys use external factors like that."

"Bro, it's just a game. Don't take it so seriously." A man in a leather jacket was just about to give Yan Huang a few pats on the back, but he was immediately repelled by the cold aura rolling off Yan Huang's shoulders. "You're really taking a game that seriously? Come on…"

"Why did you make me come all the way out here for a werewolf murder game if you didn't want to take it seriously?" Yan Huang's appearance really was much more handsome than that of most people. It was no wonder Ling Long was still smitten with him, despite having been 'killed' by him. An ordinary man's face tended to become distorted and ugly when angry, but Yan Huang was different. When he was displeased, his expression looked brave and heroic.

"Let's not fight," the short-haired woman said. "We came out to play games, which means we're all fun people, right? Since we're all fun people, let's not get worked up over this little matter!"

Everyone nodded in agreement.

The short-haired woman continued, "It's not good to let external factors affect the game, but we really can't avoid it. It's just a game, after all. It's not like these are real murders. Yan Huang, don't be mad. The important thing is that everyone has fun!"

Yan Huang obviously wasn't convinced. He stopped responding to the others and retreated to the cabin.

"I'm sorry, Yan Huang." Ling Long sidled up to him. "I didn't think you would be eliminated because of me."

Among all the participants in the game, Ling Long was the youngest and the one who looked the most likable. Everyone was pretty nice to her. She was also pretty proud of her own looks. She even believed Yan Huang had gone after her on the second night of the game, instead of someone else, because he had feelings for her.

When she spoke to Yan Huang now, she deliberately pouted her lips a little and lowered her gaze to look up at him through her lashes.

This was a textbook 'cute' pose. Only a beautiful girl could pull it off.

But Yan Huang only spared her a glance before he disgustedly said, "Don't bother me."

Where it was an online game of Werewolf or an offline game of Werewolf, votes would be cast during the day. Then night would fall and the werewolves would get a chance to kill again, while witches and seers also got a chance to act.

In real life games, players would have to follow the same rules of actions taking place in either the day or the night. That meant after the morning vote, the game was put on pause. Everyone went about their own business in the village.

After being treated so coldly by Yan Huang, Ling Long sulked for a while. She finally stopped fuming at around noon and shyly went to seek out Yan Huang again, but Yan Huang's room was already empty.

"Oh, him? He left ages ago," the cowboy said.

"Huh? He left?" Ling Long was surprised. "Didn't we all agree to play at least one full round before leaving?"

"He's petty, I guess," the man in glasses said disdainfully. "If he can't get into the game, why take an attitude like that? Our real world lives don't matter here anyway. Does he think we're all here to serve him?"

"But…" Ling Long was getting worried. "But didn't we all come together? We even rented our cars together. How can he go back alone?"

"You're still worried about him?" The short-haired woman came over. "We're all adults here, no one is obligated to take care of anyone else. If he wants to go back, just let him go. Although this is a deserted village, we're not too deep in the woods. He's a big old guy, he can find his own way back."

Ling Long was still very anxious. She clutched her own furry coat with both hands and uneasily said, "It's all my fault. If I didn't stare at him like that, you guys wouldn't have voted him out. If that sort of thing happened to me, I wouldn't be comfortable either."

"Ai, baobei'er, what does this have to do with you?" The short-haired woman slung an arm around Ling Long's shoulders. "You? You're young, you haven't had many interactions with people yet. You're still too innocent."

Ling Long mumbled, "Really?"

A woman with long, straight black hair, who hadn't spoken in all this time, suddenly snorted coldly. "Green tea bitch."

"You… what are you saying!" Ling Long exclaimed angrily.

"I'm saying you're a green tea bitch." The woman with long, dark hair lifted her eyebrows. "If you didn't hear me, I can say it a third time."

Ling Long looked like she was about to cry. "Why are you like this?"

"I can't get used to the sight of you," the woman said with a sneer. "Yan Huang is probably disgusted by you too. That's why he left early."

Ling Long was so enraged that she could hardly speak. "You… you…!"

"Why are you fighting again?" the cowboy intervened. "Let's seriously finish out this round."

After that dispute took place at around lunchtime, no one grouped up in the afternoon.

In the winter, it got dark early. And in the mountains, after sunset, the darkness reached every crevice.

It was time for everyone to 'close their eyes' again. The werewolves were cued to put on their masks and quietly sneak out of their rooms…

 

"Night has fallen. Please close your eyes. Werewolves, please confirm your identities with one another. Once you've done that, please begin."

The sheriff, Fang Yuanhang, stood formally next to the table. For fear of accidentally giving away the positions of the werewolves and the priest, everyone except a few people had their eyes closed.

Ming Shu locked eyes with Le Ran for a moment, then turned to raise his brows at Xing Mu, who sat next to him.

"Werewolves, please close your eyes now," Fang Yuanhang said. "Seer, please open your eyes."

Xiao Yu'an opened his eyes.

Fang Yuanhang's heart thumped heavily in his chest. A very subtle shift came into his tone of voice. "Who would the seer like to check?"

Xiao Yu'an used his eyes to gesture to Shen Xun.

Fang Yuanhang lifted his right hand and gave a thumbs up. "This means good guy."

Then he gave a thumbs down. "This means bad guy. The person you're asking about is…"

Xiao Yu'an watched as Fang Yuanhang gave him a thumbs up again. Then he closed his eyes once more.

"Witch, please open your eyes." Fang Yuanhang saw Xiao Man open his eyes. His tone relaxed again, and he looked towards Xing Mu. "Witch, you have one bottle of antidote and one bottle of poison. You can only use one bottle tonight. This man will be killed tonight. Do you want to save him? Or do you want to poison someone?"

Xiao Man glanced left and right, shaking his head.

"Witch, please close your eyes," Fang Yuanhang said. "The day has arrived. Everyone, please open your eyes."

The table of detectives opened their eyes and immediately started to scrutinize one another. They studied one another with such serious, focused expressions that no one would have known they were simply playing a werewolf board game at a mystery game parlor. Anyone would have thought they were investigating a serious murder case.

As the person who had proposed this trip as a team-building exercise, Fang Yuanhang felt an inexplicable sort of embarrassment.

At the start of the autumn season, the Serious Crimes Division had gone out to Mount Qiyue to take in the autumn sights. What they wound up taking in was a new murder case. That case had kept them busy all the way until the winter.

A while ago, Chu Xin had admitted his guilt. But the work of the Serious Crimes Division didn't end there. They had to collect evidence and work with their higher-ups to launch a deep investigation into Chu Linxiong and the dark secrets of the entire Chu Group.

Furthermore, Chu Xin had identified Yin Xiaofeng as someone with multiple personalities and as the murderer of Mou Haiyuan. But Yin Xiaofeng refused to admit his guilt. He wouldn't admit that he had multiple personalities, and he wouldn't admit that he killed Mou Haiyuan.

The Serious Crimes Division and the special ops team worked together as they continued their search. They first found the military knife Chu Xin had used in his previous murders, as well as the shoes he'd worn at the scenes of his crimes. On the knife, the police were able to find the DNA of the victims. The shoes also perfectly matched the previously unidentified footprints left in the Qin family's home.

After that, Ming Shu painstakingly combed through all the witness statements he'd gotten about Yin Xiaofeng's trips down the mountain. Through deduction and a careful analysis of the traces of mud found in Yin Xiaofeng's room, they managed to mark out a rough range of where Yin Xiaofeng would have hidden a body. And finally, at the foot of Mount Qiyue, where the mountain faced the back of Haijing Temple, they found Mou Haiyuan's body.

The autopsy of Mou Haiyuan's corpse determined that Mou Haiyuan had died in June, after his supposed 'retreat' in isolation was announced.

Xing Mu extracted a trace of Yin Xiaofeng's DNA from the blood that remained in Mou Haiyuan's mouth. It was suspected that this trace had been left behind when Mou Haiyuan bit his assailant.

Faced with all that evidence, Yin Xiaofeng's entire mental state seemed to change. His whole personality seemed to change.

His second personality was that of a girl, a minor. One who had been sacrificed to the 'water god', who had been drowned in a water prison by a backwards tribe of villagers.

She was Yin Xiaofeng's mother!

"He wanted to kill my child," said the 'woman' as she clasped her fingers together in front of her chest. Her expression was extremely compassionate, yet cruel. "I had to kill him first, to protect my child!"

The scene that unfolded shocked all the detectives in the interrogation room, and all the ones watching the feed from the monitoring room as well.

The 'he' that the woman spoke of was Mou Haiyuan, and the 'child' was Yin Xiaofeng.

Half a year ago, when Mou Haiyuan, who had already killed three people, tried to make Yin Xiaofeng kneel before him to accept his undeserved 'punishment', the mother—the second personality—had 'woken up' and killed Mou Haiyuan. She had then buried Mou Haiyuan's body in the most desolate place on Mount Qiyue.

And the master of the body, Yin Xiaofeng, knew nothing.

In the present day, the investigation into the higher ranks of the Chu Group was still ongoing. With the spotlight of the media and attention from the government shining down on them, the Chu family finally couldn't cover up their decades of vile deeds any longer. They were taken down one by one, along with some government officials that had been in collusion with Chu Linxiong.

Now, the Serious Crimes Division finally had a moment to breathe.

The special operations team was soon to return to the capital city. Before departing, the two teams naturally had to have a get-together. As for where they would go to have their gathering, the members of the two teams debated the matter endlessly, without ever reaching a consensus. Although they all decided right away on where they absolutely wouldn't go.

From now on, each and every member of the Serious Crimes Division vowed to never, ever go to internet-famous scenic spots again!

Finally, Fang Yuanhang had suggested, "Let's go to 'Crisis' in Nan District, it's a mystery game parlor. That place is huge, and they have all sorts of themes. There are board game rooms and KTV rooms, there's a restaurant… the ones who are too scared to play the escape rooms can do something else."

The words 'too scared to play escape rooms', when spoken to a bunch of hardened military veterans and other law enforcement gents, was absolutely intolerable. They certainly couldn't wuss out now.

Fang Yuanhang was now starting to think he shouldn't have suggested an escape room.

The mystery game parlor 'Crisis' was very popular. The group of police detectives had eaten lunch before heading out to the parlor. When they got there, several groups were waiting in line ahead of them. They could only head into a board game hall and play something while they waited.

These days, there were countless new board games in circulation. But the only one everyone in their group knew how to play was the old and outdated Werewolf.

They didn't go into a private box, instead playing out in a large hall. There were about ten tables of guests in that same hall. Everyone was playing passionately, but no one was taking their game as seriously as the table of detectives.

The inner essence of these elite investigators could be seen on these occasions of casual entertainment. They were just hunting down a man-killing werewolf in a board game, but they all treated the game with the seriousness of a hunt for a vicious serial killer. Every time 'day' rolled around in the game, they engaged in a tense debate. Everyone used their own logic to attack the loopholes in everyone else's defenses. The newbie to the game, Le Ran, even took out a little notebook at the beginning and diligently recorded everyone's words. Then he would dissect every little detail…

In a gaming hall filled with so many people, it really was an awkward scene.

Fang Yuanhang silently shook his head.

There was no need for this. There really was no need.

Now, it was 'day' in the game again. A new round of debate had begun.

For the nth time, Fang Yuanhang saw other players from nearby tables casting curious glances at them.

"Someone died last night," Fang Yuanhang announced. He looked at Xing Mu regretfully. "Xing-laoshi, it was you. You can choose to leave behind some final words on the night of your death. Xing-laoshi, do you have anything to say?"

Xing Mu mournfully cast a look at all the faces around them, then locked on to Ming Shu.

Ming Shu blinked. "Hm?"

"It was you!" Xing Mu lifted a finger and pointed at him. "Boss, you hatefully murdered me!"

Ming Shu instantly retorted, "I've been wrongly accused. It wasn't me."

Fang Yuanhang interrupted, "Only the dead can speak right now."

Ming Shu smiled and shut up.

"Everyone, believe me. Vote him out. I'm absolutely certain he's the one who killed me last night!" Xing Mu kept his gaze fixed on Ming Shu. "Boss, you're too vindictive. I killed you three times, and now you want to take revenge!"

Everyone started to laugh. Even Xiao Yu'an couldn't hold back.

Xing Mu finished delivering his 'final words', and was no longer allowed to speak for the rest of the round.

The game continued. Yi Fei said, "Let me just say, in all fairness, Xing-ge… you really shouldn't have killed Little Ming three times in a row. Who wouldn't want revenge after being killed three times? If it were me, I would also want revenge. It's not that Little Ming is vindictive, it's that you're too much of a bully."

Xing Mu jumped and opened his mouth.

Fang Yuanhang quickly interjected, "Dead people can't talk!"

Xing Mu mournfully closed his mouth again.

After a round of discussion, Ming Shu was the only one who argued for his own innocence. His fellow werewolves of that round weren't even bold enough to help him.

Finally, when it was Xiao Yu'an's turn to speak, he concluded, "Then let's vote Captain Ming out today."

"Director Xiao…" Ming Shu said.

Xiao Yu'an smiled and said, "Let me identify myself first. I'm the seer. I know the witch didn't use a potion last night, so the antidote still exists. If I die tonight, save me. If someone who isn't me dies tonight, use the poison on Le Ran."

Le Ran jolted with surprise. "Huh?"

Xiao Yu'an continued, "I didn't manage to find a werewolf last night. I originally didn't want to expose my identity so early, but I'm assuming everyone here already knows I'm the seer based on Fang Yuanhang's reaction."

Fang Yuanhang was also surprised. "Huh?"

Everyone else nodded.

"The one I checked was Captain Shen. Captain Shen is confirmed to be an innocent," Xiao Yu'an said. "I checked him because in the first few games, Captain Shen was very good at setting the pace. If he's an innocent, we can be sure he'll set the rhythm later. If he's a bad guy…"

Shen Xun glanced at Le Ran, smiling and shaking his head.

Ming Shu slapped his forehead with an audible smack.

"Captain Shen is very good at taking the lead. Since I drew the seer role, I checked him on the first night. If I'd gotten the werewolf role…" Xiao Yu'an smiled serenely. "Of course I would have killed him on the first night. Since Captain Shen wasn't killed last night, I have reason to suspect that his team member, Le Ran, is a werewolf."

Le Ran's eyes opened even wider. He looked at Ming Shu, then looked at Fang Yuanhang, and finally stared at Shen Xun with a pleading look in his eyes.

But there was nothing Shen Xun could do.

After the votes were cast, Ming Shu was voted out. His final words were, "I fucking died unjustly!"

Xing Mu quietly muttered, "Bah! I know it was you."

The next night, the remaining werewolves didn't kill Xiao Yu'an, and Le Ran was poisoned by the witch.

When the 'day' came around again, Xiao Yu'an and the other innocents managed to root out Xu Chun, the final werewolf, earning the good guys a big victory.

"This game was influenced by external factors, wasn't it," Ming Shu said. "How else could you good guys have won so easily?"

"It was my bad, my bad," Fang Yuanhang said, even slapping his own head. "Whenever I look at Director Xiao, I get nervous!"

"Director Xiao is so congenial and affable," Ming Shu said. "What are you nervous for?"

Congenial?

Affable?

Fang Yuanhang's expression suddenly became even more intriguing.

Chief, how can you use such weird, old-fashioned words to describe your boyfriend?

Are you sure you mean affable? Don't you mean kissable?

Was that the secret meaning?

After the detectives played a few rounds, the staff from the games parlor came to inform them that the deserted village mystery room was finally available.

The deserted village was one of the most terrifying attractions at Crisis, and it was one of their top three most popular rooms. Before they set out, Fang Yuanhang had asked Ming Shu which room he should choose, and Ming Shu had told him to pick whichever was most horrific. So Fang Yuanhang wound up booking the deserted village.

Le Ran wasn't willing to resign himself to his loss. He wanted to continue playing Werewolf. But Ming Shu said, "Forget about it, let's stop here."

"Why?" Le Ran asked. "Don't you want revenge?"

"Are you plotting to kill our Director Xiao to get that revenge?" Ming Shu asked.

Le Ran was silent.

Ming Shu smiled. "That's out of the question. If you kill him, I'll have to kill you."

The two of them had fallen behind the others. Only Fang Yuanhang, who was nearby, heard that conversation.

Fang Yuanhang was speechless.

His chief was an upstanding man of love, honor, and righteousness!

 

The most terrifying attraction at the games parlor, in the eyes of these hardened detectives, was like an elementary school playground. They cleared the room in record time, easily beating the previous record that had been set at Crisis.

As a result, Fang Yuanhang—who had booked the room—was awarded an ostentatious, weirdly-shaped ring.

"What would I want this for?" Fang Yuanhang said. "It's not like I have a wife."

Saying that, he carelessly tossed the ring into the air.

It would have been very easy to catch the ring on its way down, but just as Fang Yuanhang opened his palm to catch it, he was rammed in the side by a student running past him.

He didn't exactly fall down, but he did end up dropping the ring.

It was Ming Shu, passing by, who picked it up.

"Chief." Fang Yuanhang tittered nervously.

"Don't want it?" Ming Shu asked.

Fang Yuanhang suddenly had a flash of inspiration. "Go ahead, you take it."

I don't have a wife, but you do.

Ming Shu looked at it for a while, then smiled and said, "Well, thanks."

It was already getting late. After relaxing for an afternoon with games and an escape room at Crisis, the detectives all started to make their way out.

Many people were waiting outside the elevators. A nearby TV screen was playing out a clip featuring the celebrity Hu Ying.

A few girls covered their mouths and shrieked. While waiting for the elevator, Ming Shu took a moment to observe these girls. From their elated expressions, he could tell that this celebrity Hu Ying must have come to this mystery game parlor before. These girls had probably come to 'check in' so they could say they'd gone to the same place.

The elevator couldn't fit all the detectives at once, so Ming Shu and Xiao Yu'an stayed behind and waited to take the next one.

It seemed Crisis was using Hu Ying for publicity. The screen by the elevator showed clips of Hu Ying nonstop.

Ming Shu placed the ring in Xiao Yu'an's hand. "Take it."

Xiao Yu'an breathed a laugh, but he didn't say anything.

The only sounds that remained around them were the sounds from the TV screen.

Before the elevator doors opened, Ming Shu said, "How come I haven't seen this celebrity before?"

"Must have just gotten popular," Xiao Yu'an answered. "His looks are pretty outstanding."

Ming Shu turned halfway and gave Xiao Yu'an an inscrutable look.

Xiao Yu'an hummed inquisitively. "Hm?"

Ming Shu grinned and said, "I gave you a ring, and you praise someone else's good looks? Director Xiao, you're a… bit of a slag."

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