MADNESS OF THE HEART

Chapter 118: Mad Wolf (Part Two)

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It wasn't appropriate to become too intimate in public places. Even though they were dressed in civilian clothes at the moment, Xiao Yu'an didn't do much to Ming Shu when Ming Shu suddenly started acting up.

The elevator doors slid open. Their luck was pretty good; this time, there was no one else inside.

They wouldn't go so far as to do anything in an elevator, but being in such a small, enclosed space together—alone, without anyone else around—was also a sort of win.

The two of them stood at the back of the elevator. Xiao Yu'an didn't move, but Ming Shu reached out and nudged the center of Xiao Yu'an's palm.

Xiao Yu'an lowered his gaze and said in a helpless yet indulgent tone, "Captain Ming."

"Uh—" Ming Shu froze. "What is it?"

Xiao Yu'an said, "Your hand is already so big. Why are you still trying to place it in my hand?"

These words sounded like ones Ming Shu had already heard before. It took him a moment to think back, before he remembered—

When they were little, he had been afraid of the cold. As soon as winter came, he would always like sticking close to Xiao Yu'an. If Xiao Yu'an's jacket was buttoned up tight, then Ming Shu would forget about it. But if Xiao Yu'an's jacket happened to be unbuttoned or unzipped, Ming Shu would naturally first scoot closer, then squirm into Xiao Yu'an's arms when Xiao Yu'an wasn't paying attention. Whenever he succeeded, he would tilt his head back and flash Xiao Yu'an a big grin.

Whenever MIng Shu did this, if he was spotted by Xiao Jincheng, he was be scolded by Xiao Jincheng for acting like a dog. Ming Shu didn't mind, though. If he was a dog, then he was a dog. Xiao Yu'an's clothes were so warm. Who didn't like warm places?

Besides, the Xiao family's actual dog was named Chengcheng, not Shushu. If Ming Shu was a dog, then Xiao Jincheng was also a dog. Plus, Xiao Jincheng was a dog without a warm place where he could burrow.

Thinking about it like that, Ming Shu was obviously the one who got a better deal.

That was the strange logic of a child, anyway. And Xiao Yu'an never shooed him away, so he happily continued seeking out Xiao Yu'an's embrace. It was only when he grew from a boy to a teen that he realized how immature his own behavior had been.

But the habit had become second nature to him. One year, after they'd grown up, Xiao Yu'an had finished up a mission with the special operations team and come to visit Ming Shu in Dongye City. At the time, Xiao Yu'an was wearing a long wool coat, unbuttoned, and a dark gray scarf. He waited for Ming Shu near his residential neighborhood.

Ming Shu had taken one look at him, and instantly his knees had felt a little weak.

Xiao Yu'an smiled and waved, with his hands clad in black leather gloves.

Ming Shu raced over. Just greeting Xiao Yu'an with a hug wasn't enough. He grabbed onto the sides of Xiao Yu'an's coat and wrapped himself up inside.

Since it was late at night, and since they were standing in a rather remote place, they weren't seen by any passersby.

"You're already so tall. Why are you still trying to squeeze in here?" Xiao Yu'an had said. Though he said that, his arms were already wrapped around Ming Shu. He didn't push Ming Shu away.

"I can't squeeze in just because I'm tall?" Ming Shu didn't just squeeze into Xiao Yu'an's coat. He also buried his face against Xiao Yu'an's shoulder.

Xiao Yu'an reached out and grabbed his hand, pulling him into the residential community.

Now, several years later, Ming Shu countered in the same tone, "I can't hold your hand just because mine is big? Ge, hold it."

Xiao Yu'an brushed a finger over the tip of Ming Shu's nose.

The elevator stopped on the ground floor, where everyone else was waiting outside.

Ming Shu had composed himself in the elevator. He stepped out and asked where everyone wanted to go now.

"I have something to do here," Yi Fei said, waving his cell phone. "I'll head out first."

"What do you have to do?" Xu Chun called out. "Come back here."

Yi Fei hurriedly looked at Ming Shu.

Ming Shu understood right away. "Sure, you can go first."

Yi Fei gave him a salute of thanks, then exchanged a few goodbyes with the special ops team before hailing down a cab to leave.

"No, seriously, where is he going?" Xu Chun asked. "Doesn't he love karaoke?"

"Your Captain Yi has a date," Ming Shu said.

"Huh?" Fang Yuanhang was shocked. "Who? Why don't I know anything about it?"

"As a member of my Serious Crimes Division," Ming Shu said, "you can't even figure that much out?"

Fang Yuanhang felt aggrieved, but he really hadn't had any idea.

Xiao Man clapped his hands together. "I got it! Is it that girl from the policewomen's squadron in Dong District?"

Ming Shu laughed. "Alright, ask Yi Fei the rest yourself. Where are the rest of you going?"

"The rest of us?" Fang Yuanhang asked. "Chief, you aren't coming with us?"

"I'm the boss, after all," Ming Shu said, deliberately glancing over at Xing Mu. "It's alright for me to hang out with you guys for a while, but I have something to do too. I'll be leaving early."

Fang Yuanhang eyed Ming Shu suspiciously at first, then looked over at Xiao Yu'an. Just when everyone thought he was going to protest that Ming Shu couldn't leave, he suddenly turned and boldly stood in front of Ming Shu, loudly calling out to the others, "Everyone, let's hit up the bars!"

 

At the entrance of the Crisis mystery game parlor, everyone split up into three groups. The special ops team had to leave first thing in the morning, so all of them went back to their rooms to rest. Ming Shu and the others with 'something to do' all left as well. The rest of them, led by Fang Yuanhang, marched into a bar to have a raucous good time.

On the way home, Xiao Yu'an said, "Your little rookie is very protective of you."

What this 'protection' referred to was, of course, very obvious to Ming Shu.

"He figured it out," Ming Shu said. "Fang Yuanhang can be very obtuse sometimes, but he can also be very attentive to little details once in a while."

"Mm." Xiao Yu'an nodded. "Do you need to have a talk with him?"

Ming Shu tapped the steering wheel with his fingers. "No need, it's just a small matter."

Dongye City wasn't located in an exceptionally warm place. In winters, it was cold both indoors and outside. Those who wanted to warm up would have to turn on their heaters. But heaters weren't entirely effective. Even when the air in Ming Shu's rooms grew warmer, the floorboards would still stay cold.

So when winter rolled around, Ming Shu didn't like staying at his own place. He would always stay with Xiao Yu'an. Xiao Yu'an's place had been renovated with heated flooring, which was always very nice to come home to.

Xiao Yu'an still had some work to take care of, so Ming Shu sat on the couch in the living room and watched TV. They rarely used the TV at home, and when they did have it on, it was usually turned to the news.

The case of the Chu Group had blown up to epic proportions. It wasn't only covered by local news, but national news as well. Ming Shu had been dealing with one Chu after another as of late, and he knew everything that was being reported on the news already. After watching for a while, he lost interest. He didn't want to always hear the names Chu Linxiong and Chu Xin, so he grabbed the remote and changed the channel.

Besides the news, the channels Ming Shu watched the most were sports channels. But at that time of day, there weren't any interesting events playing, so he had to keep flipping through the channels.

After skipping over one channel, something suddenly occurred to him, and he flipped back.

A familiar face appeared on the screen. It just so happened to be the celebrity Ming Shu had seen on the TV screens at Crisis.

What was his name again?

Ming Shu propped his chin up on one hand and thought about it.

Hu Ying.

This was a strange name. The two words, meaning Lake and Shadow, almost didn't seem like a real name when you put them together.

The show currently playing on the screen was an idol-centric period drama. It was a big production with a big budget, and it was wildly popular on Weibo. It had launched several of the idols featured in the show to stardom. Hu Ying was one of them.

Ming Shu had never taken much of an interest in the entertainment industry, but even he had heard about this period drama.

Normally, Ming Shu wouldn't have gone back after skipping over a channel. But he had some spare time today, so he figured he may as well check out this drama that had been all the rage for a few months already.

Tabloids and professional critics had all praised this show to the point of making it seem divine. On every social media platform, fans worked tirelessly to control the tide of the comments. Ordinary people could hardly ever find anything negative about it. But after watching for around fifteen minutes, Ming Shu actually fell asleep.

In those short fifteen minutes, he came to a few conclusions in a row—the dialogue was childish, the logic was convoluted, and the acting was bad. The cast only looked good, and the costumes weren't bad either.

Before completely falling asleep, Ming Shu blearily thought of the martial arts films he'd watched as a child.

He thought of the martial arts star of that generation, Mou Haiyuan, who had killed so many people and had ultimately been killed by Yin Xiaofeng's other personality in the end.

Back then, filming technology couldn't be compared to what it was today. That wasn't to mention the acting and the costumes. These days, in terms of acting alone, the older generation was praised for their skills and dedication. But in truth, there were also actors from the older generation whose acting skills were exaggerated and insincere. There were also those who were simply unprofessional.

Mou Haiyuan, at least in terms of acting, wasn't mediocre.

Ming Shu really wished he could ask him, face to face, just as he would interrogate any suspect—what exactly had he been thinking? Why did he take the path he took?

But once a person died, they took all their secrets to the grave with them.

With the evidence they had in hand, the police could already clearly sketch out Mou Haiyuan's motives and methods. But without hearing Mou Haiyuan's own admission of guilt, it still felt like something was missing.

The real Kui Chen from Haijing Temple had been Mou Haifeng. How had Mou Haiyuan found him? When did Mou Haiyuan discover that his twin brother was a monk at Haijing Temple? And if he knew, why did he wait until Kui Chen was dying to go see him?

None of these questions had been answered.

The remote control in Ming Shu's hand fell onto the rug. Ming Shu was lying on his side, with his hair, freshly blown dry, falling loosely over his face.

He had returned to Dongye City from his training with special ops in the summer, and in the blink of an eye winter had arrived. Although he'd had a few days off in that time, it was obvious that he had been busy for most of those months.

When he thought about it, he realized that half a year had passed in such a flash.

The bigger the city, the better the security measures. But the human population in big cities was larger as well, and where there were people, there was sure to be evil. In a place like Dongye City, there were few easy days for most ordinary police, never mind the Serious Crimes Division.

Of course, Ming Shu was only in charge of the Serious Crimes Division, while Xiao Yu'an was in charge of the entire Criminal Investigation Bureau. Xiao Yu'an was also responsible for matters associated with every other branch of the Bureau, so naturally the pressure on his shoulders was much heavier.

After finishing his work, Xiao Yu'an emerged from the study. As soon as he saw Ming Shu, his eyes became gentler. In the warm glow of the living room, his eyes looked as calm as a vast, peaceful sea.

But even when a sea was calm, there were always undercurrents pulsing beneath the surface.

That was the pulse of the sea.

Xiao Yu'an walked over to the couch. He first bent down, then simply sat down on the rug and lowered his head to look at Ming Shu.

Ming Shu wasn't sleeping too deeply. He woke when he sensed Xiao Yu'an approaching.

Xiao Yu'an lifted a hand and swept back Ming Shu's hair. "Go sleep in bed."

Ming Shu smiled as he started to come back to his senses. "Xiao-gege."

The smile in Xiao Yu'an's eyes grew brighter.

Just then, Ming Shu changed his tone and corrected, "Slag-gege."

Xiao Yu'an grabbed one of Ming Shu's ankles and gave his foot a shake. "Who's a slag?"

"Before I got to be the werewolf, I was killed three times in a row by Xing-laoshi," Ming Shu said, feigning anger. "You were the witch during one of those rounds, but you didn't save me."

Xiao Yu'an explained, "At that time, the seer hadn't revealed himself yet. I didn't know if you were the seer. Since I only had one bottle of antidote, I wanted to save it for the seer."

Ming Shu wouldn't listen to reason. "In another round, you were a werewolf with Xing-laoshi! The wolves wanted to kill me, and you agreed to it!"

"I had no reason to stop them," Xiao Yu'an said.

Ming Shu clutched his chest with both hands and let out a pained huff. "Then, I finally got the werewolf role, and you rallied everyone against me! For so many rounds in a row, I didn't get to really experience the game!"

"I was the seer, I had to think of the good guys," Xiao Yu'an said. His voice was so warm and soothing. Even though Ming Shu's anger was clearly just an act that he put on for fun, Xiao Yu'an played along.

Ming Shu pulled his feet in and crossed his legs on the couch. "Look at Le Ran. He knows how to protect Captain Shen."

Xiao Yu'an laughed. "That was why he was exposed in the first round."

Ming Shu was silent for a moment. "…fair point."

As the two of them sat there, one on the couch and one on the rug, there was a natural height difference between them. Xiao Yu'an leaned back, propping himself up on his hands, as he waited for Ming Shu to continue.

"Slag-gege." Ming Shu was so amused that he laughed at his own words.

Xiao Yu'an was unbothered. "Hm?"

"I have to get payback," Ming Shu said, after quelling his laughter and clearing his throat.

"How do you want to get payback?"

"I only got the werewolf role once today, and you got everyone to vote me out in the first round. I didn't get to really enjoy being a wolf."

Xiao Yu'an crinkled the corners of his eyes. "So?"

Ming Shu suddenly pounced and wrapped his arms around Xiao Yu'an's waist. "So, I have to make up for it tonight! I want to keep being a wolf tonight!"

Xiao Yu'an patted him on the back twice. "I'll allow it."

 

That night, while some people played an 'alternative' game of Werewolf, others were letting loose at a bar.

Not many people actually went to a bar with Fang Yuanhang after the group split up outside Crisis. More and more people split off from the group on the way to the bar. By the time they actually got there, it was just Fang Yuanhang and Xiao Man.

Fang Yuanhang sighed. "Bro. You're my only true bro. You usually love to bicker with me, but now you're the only one keeping me company."

Xiao Man disdainfully shot back, "As if I'm keeping you company. I want to drink by myself."

The two of them continued to bicker and shove as they made their way to the bar, finally taking seats next to each other. It was only then that they realized something was wrong.

In the booth over there… why were two guys kissing?

And what were those men on the dance floor doing?

For a second, Fang Yuanhang thought his bright, heterosexual eyes were about to go blind.

"Fuck!" Xiao Man deliberately scooted away from Fang Yuanhang. "Bro, are you gay?"

"You're the one who's gay!" Fang Yuanhang shot back. Only then did he suddenly remember that the person who'd recommended this bar to him was that little fruit Yu Dalong!

This was a fucking gay bar!

Xiao Man crossed his arms. "If you're not gay, why did you come here?"

"You came in too, and you're not gay, right?" Fang Yuanhang countered.

Xiao Man laughed out loud. "I was tricked by your evil ways. Isn't that obvious? How was I supposed to know that this was a gay bar?"

"I was also tricked by someone's evil ways!" Fang Yuanhang protested. "You know Yu Dalong, right? He said the drinks here were good, so I wanted to try having a drink!"

Xiao Man didn't give him any reprieve. "That little fruit? If he said the ass here was good, would you want to come and try having a taste?"

Fang Yuanhang fell silent.

Xiao Man looked on as Fang Yuanhang raised a hand against him. "Oi, is a police officer supposed to be beating up a member of the public?"

"Forget it, I can control myself." Fang Yuanhang patted his own fist. "But even if I really hit you, you wouldn't be a member of the public."

"Right, you would be assaulting a police officer." Xiao Man finished joking around and said, "Since we're here, let's just drink here. It's too much of a hassle to switch places."

Fang Yuanhang was a bit surprised. "You're a straight guy. You don't feel uncomfortable sitting here?"

"What's the problem?" Xiao Man asked. "Drinking is just drinking. Where can't you have a drink? If you don't want to do anything, I don't buy for a second that those gay guys can force you into anything."

Fang Yuanhang considered it for a moment, then decided that made sense. So he stayed in his seat and ordered some drinks and a fruit plate with Xiao Man.

Xiao Man really had come to drink. He didn't get distracted for a second as he finished one drink, then another, and another.

"You aren't going through something, are you?" Fang Yuanhang asked. "Drinking to drown your sorrows?"

Xiao Man held a glass in his hands. "It's just a reasonable amount of stress relief."

Fang Yuanhang had been in the Serious Crimes Division for nearly two years already. He was very familiar with the Xiao Man he saw at work, but this was the first time he'd come out drinking with Xiao Man alone.

Men and their mouths… as soon as they started drinking, they just couldn't control what they said.

Xiao Man was usually sharp-tongued. He bickered with anyone he spoke with. Not even Ming Shu was spared. He looked very bold and carefree, but when they talked about more serious things today, Fang Yuanhang realized that Xiao Man actually carried a very heavy burden on his shoulders.

The trace inspection team had two very experienced trace inspection experts. That year, one had retired and one had fallen ill. Xiao Man never complained; he simply took up their responsibilities. When a serious case needed a trace inspector, Xiao Man would head out to the crime scene. He would immediately get results, then go to the next crime scene. If he couldn't find any results right away, he would keep searching like his life depended on it.

When he couldn't stand the pressure anymore, Xiao Man would go out drinking alone. He would pick any random bar and order himself drinks and something to eat. Other people drank to drown their sorrows or muffle their doubts. But Xiao Man drank just to give himself a boost to keep going, to blow off some steam. After he drank, he would go have a wild night on the town, then go back to work in high spirits the next day.

Fang Yuanhang understood why Xiao Man wanted to drink now—this long string of cases had completely worn Xiao Man out.

This was a person who never showed his exhaustion on his face. At most, he would sometimes give off the vibe that he was in a bad mood.

"Let's have a toast, brother," Fang Yuanhang said, lifting his glass to tip it against Xiao Man's.

Xiao Man gave him a look. "Who wants to toast with you at a place like this?"

"Oh, we're going at it again? I fucking told you I was tricked by Yu Dalong!" Fang Yuanhang took out his cell phone. "Ask him if you don't believe me."

Both of them were already in high spirits, having had enough to drink. Originally, Fang Yuanhang had just been joking. He never imagined that they would actually end up calling Yu Dalong.

 

At their cores, Yu Dalong and the people of the Serious Crimes Division were one and the same. They were all workaholics.

When he received Fang Yuanhang's call, Yu Dalong had just sent one of the little stars he managed home. He just so happened to be looking for a bar where he could unwind.

The atmosphere at the bar hadn't peaked yet. When Yu Dalong arrived after getting the call, the three men squeezed into a booth together. Before they really 'confronted' the situation, they heard a cheer from the opposite side of the bar.

It was Fang Yuanhang's first time at a gay bar. He was like a country bumpkin visiting the city for the first time. He craned his neck around and said, "Holy shit, why's there a beautiful woman at a place like this?"

Xiao Man and Yu Dalong instantly followed his line of sight.

They found an elegant woman on the other side of the dance floor, one with a slender, curvy figure and a narrow waist. Her form-fitting dress drew everyone's attention to her excellent figure. Her legs were long and straight, and she wore a pair of high-heeled shoes. Her makeup and dress were vibrantly colored under the flashing lights of the dance floor.

As soon as she appeared, the vast majority of people in the bar looked over at her.

"An actress?" Fang Yuanhang asked. "Is she going to dance?"

"That's a man," Yu Dalong said with a laugh. "Fang-ge, are you bent?"

"A man?" Forget about Fang Yuanhang. Even Xiao Man was surprised. "That person is a man?"

"Yeah," Yu Daolong said. "Don't be fooled by those long wavy locks and the dress. Look carefully at his legs and back. Women aren't usually that strongly built."

Fang Yuanhang and Xiao Man looked very carefully, and they couldn't help but think—

Are our powers of observation not as good as Yu Dalong's?

"I wouldn't dare compare my powers of observation to that of you policemen," Yu Dalong said as he took small sips of his drink. "I'm a regular here, I've seen Lanlan a bunch of times. He likes to wear women's clothing, but he's the same 'type' as me."

Xiao Man laughed and said, "So this is your sister?"

Yu Dalong pouted. "He's way more popular than I am!"

Fang Yuanhang, who had been perpetually single for all twenty-some years of his life due to his awfully honest ways, nodded bluntly. "I think so too."

Yu Dalong fell silent.

"If you don't know how to talk nice, talk less," Xiao Man chided.

Fang Yuanhang didn't actually realize his own mistake. "Did I say something wrong?"

Yu Dalong was pretty easy-going, though. He didn't quibble over that and instead changed the subject. "I've been so tired lately. I go to work early every day and leave late every night. I've been working myself to the bone for my babies."

Fang Yuanhang knew that the 'babies' referred to the idols and other artists Yu Dalong worked with. Although the ones in Yu Dalong's care weren't hugely famous yet, Yu Dalong still worked hard and hung out with celebrities all the time. It could be said that he had one foot in the entertainment industry.

Lately, the most popular name in the industry was undoubtedly an actor Hu Ying, from the new show called 'Mortal Lake'. Fang Yuanhang wasn't like his chief, who didn't watch TV dramas at all. When he had time, Fang Yuanhang would watch a bit. He had a pretty deep impression of Hu Ying.

"Have you met Hu Ying?" Fang Yuanhang asked.

Yu Dalong grinned as soon as he heard that question. He hurriedly took out his phone. "I have a photo with him!"

He called it a photo with Hu Ying, but it was actually a group photo with a lot of people standing together. More than half of Yu Dalong's face was covered.

"He suddenly got really popular, right?" Xiao Man asked.

"Yeah. Before 'Mortal Lake' got all that attention, he wasn't even as popular as the ones I manage," Yu Dalong said. "Forget being an A-lister. He used to be a Z-lister. His luck is just too good."

"That's got to be an exaggeration," Fang Yuanhang said.

Yu Dalong shook his head. "That's the way the entertainment industry is. Sometimes luck really can determine everything."

Xiao Man laughed. "Then if one day someone you manage becomes popular, you'll be a gold-standard agent."

Yu Dalong happily downed the rest of his drink. "Man-ge, you really know how to talk."

Fang Yuanhang had drank too much. He went to the bathroom, and when he came back, he asked, "Where'd that Lanlan go?"

"Left, probably." Yu Dalong didn't have a high tolerance. His vision was blurry after just a few drinks. "He always comes early and leaves early."

"Shouldn't you come late and leave late to a place like this?" Fang Yuanhang asked.

Yu Dalong shrugged. "You policemen are so gossipy. You even have to ask about when us little gay guys go home."

"Hey, don't open fire on all of us," Xiao Man said. "Fang Yuanhang is the only gossip here. He's a little rat turd, don't lump the rest of us in with him."

As they bantered and joked with each other, the night grew deeper and deeper.

In a quiet, upscale neighborhood, Ming Shu and Xiao Yu'an were cuddled up together in bed. Outside the bar, Fang Yuanhang dutifully hailed down a cab and sent the inebriated Yu Dalong home.

A few hours later, at five in the morning, the peak hours for cremations arrived at the West Moon Funeral Home in the north of Dongye City.

There was a folk belief that men had more yang energy. As a result, the vast majority of funeral homes hired mostly male employees.

All the employees responsible for cremations at the West Moon Funeral Home were young men under the age of forty.

One body typically burned for forty minutes. Relatives would wait in the lounge outside, until they could collect the ashes.

In the corridors, there would sometimes be voices calling out, or the sound of crackling, or the sobs from family members waiting around.

The door of one incinerator opened. The ashes and remaining bones of the cremated body were slowly pushed out on a conveyor belt. A man in a gray uniform scooped those ashes into an urn. The low, muffled sounds of crying came out from around him, but his expression remained numb and blank the whole time.

At that moment, the entirety of Dongye City was asleep.

The ones at the funeral home were the first to wake.

At the same moment, Hu Ying also woke up.

He sat up in bed, his eyes blank and expressionless as he gazed at the darkly tinted windows around him. The reflection on those mirrors didn't look like that of a man, but like that of a propped up corpse.

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