TRA V2C1

Translated by: TaffyGirl13

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Chapter 1: Another Homicide Case Appears

As expected, passing through the streets every Monday morning was a disaster. The cars were packed tightly together like a swarm of ants, jamming the originally not very wide path so that it was impenetrable. Currently, the traffic light had already lost all purpose. It had been over half an hour already, and they had just barely moved the tiniest distance. It was even slower than a tortoise’s speed. At this rate, who knew what time it would be by the time they reached the crime scene.

Theoretically speaking, police cars had the right to specially pass through during emergency tasks. However, Ye Xiao and Su Mu were still stuck in the middle of the road. The reason for this was because the siren installed on the roof could not make a sound. And the reason the siren couldn’t make a sound was because…

Su Mu’s expression was dark as he frigidly glared through the corners of his narrowed eyes at Ye Xiao, who was heartily chewing on a hamburger in the front passenger seat next to him. Su Mu ground out each word separately, as though interrogating a criminal, “Speak. What is wrong with the siren?”

His voice was not loud, but Ye Xiao jolted in shock and nearly dropped the half-eaten burger in his hands.

“Er, oh, um…I-I don’t know…”

Ye Xiao secretly shot a glance at Su Mu as he vaguely replied this way. He then immediately lowered his head to continue to pretend eating his breakfast in large gulps, as if there was nothing wrong. Even a blind person could see that at this specific moment, his partner’s mood was extremely terrible. Putting aside the chilling expression as cold as frost and the very nasty tone, just the ice arrows being shot out from those eyes was enough for him to instantly suffer a hundred blows.

Thus, the smartest action in this moment was to follow the saying that “silence is gold”.

“Oh, really. You don’t know?”

Su Mu scoffed as he restrained his pent-up anger so that it did not immediately burst out. He simply pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket without a sound, holding it between two fingers as he blankly shoved it in front of Ye Xiao’s face.

“What’s that?” Ye Xiao looked at it suspiciously.

“A bill.”

“A bill?”

“This is all the money that you owe me up until now. You have three days to repay it, or else I have the right to sue you.”

Su Mu’s words were firm without a trace of joking around.

“Oi, ah, wait-wait a second…”

Ye Xiao’s emotions immediately surged forth like a cat that had gotten its tail stepped on. With a grievous expression, he argued back, “Are you misunderstanding something? Is there really a need to make such a big fuss over nothing? Isn’t it just money I owe you from a few meals, a few drinks, that one night I stayed over, a few taxi fares, and…and buying a heater…and…and a few months’ of rent, and some utility fees?”

“Cut the pointless complaints, where’s the money?”

“Money, money, money. Why is that that every time you open your mouth, it’s to talk about money? Don’t you know that talking about money is very harmful to feelings between brothers—”

“Then you can just wait for a court summons.”

“Ahhh! Please, don’t. Don’t be like this. I-I’ll just confess, alright…”

Ye Xiao clapped his palms together in an upright position as he bowed his head and repented, “Sorry, I was wrong. The alarm was broken by me.”

“Oh? How so?” Su Mu’s smile remained cold.

“I didn’t put it on securely when pursuing a criminal on the run last week and it accidentally fell onto the ground…”

“If it broke, why did you not immediately report for it to get repaired?”

“Hehe, I…forgot.”

Ye Xiao shamelessly beamed in reply, his grin even more brilliant than the sun without a hint of regret.

Su Mu rolled his eyes. He was long past dumbfounded when it came to his partner, who was missing many screws in the brain.

Forty minutes later, they finally – after much difficulty – “rushed” to the crime scene.

By the time they had reached the scene, it had already been sealed off. Layers of yellow police tape were set up to separate the crowding onlookers from the critical areas.

Ye Xiao took out his work ID and put on a pair of white gloves. Then, he and Su Mu forcefully squeezed through the dense crowds.

The inside of the taped region was being photographed and having evidence collected by several colleagues from the forensics group. When they saw the “freak duo” arrive late, they glanced over with unpleasant looks of disdain. Yet Ye Xiao remained oblivious, and after greeting them, automatically walked into the exact location of the crime.

This was a narrow alley between a public office building and a market. The alley was very deep, narrow and dark. For all that the eye could see, there wasn’t a trace of sunlight; it could be called a complete blind spot. The walls on both sides were lined with various junk. There were some discarded cardboard boxes and plastic boards, as well as multiple bags with unidentified contents. Further inside were two large, rusted, metal-plated trash bins. However, these trash bins had been cleaned thoroughly, as cleaning people would come sort out the garbage early every morning. In addition, it was the cleaning worker on shift today that had been the first to discover the crime scene, as well as the one that had reported it.

Ye Xiao pulled out his work notebook so that he could record some simple notes about the scene.

The eyewitness was a middle-aged woman in her forties. She wore the distributed uniform of the Environment Protection Bureau. Her complexion did not look very good and her hair was a bit messy; moreover, she was quietly muttering something to herself.

When the woman saw Ye Xiao walk over towards her, she automatically reached out to grab his sleeve with two shaking hands. Ye Xiao warmly comforted her a bit before she finally swallowed hard and calmed down slightly to haltingly recall the events.

She said, “This morning…when it was not quite five yet, I came to clear the trash cans in this alley after cleaning out the trash along the streets, just as I usually do…but the instant I stepped into the alley, I saw…saw that next to the trash can lay a…a thing that seemed to be a person…Since the sun hadn’t completely risen yet, I couldn’t see very clearly, so I went closer to take a look and found…found that it was actually a person that was a lump of mutilated flesh…”

At this point, she paused and looked up at Ye Xiao. Her voice trembled as she asked uncertainly, “That-that should be a person, right? But-but why don’t they have skin?”

“Don’t have what? Skin?”

The hand taking notes stopped.

The woman nodded, her slackened face filled with horror and lingering fear. “Yes, I saw it. From head to toe, it was just a lump of flesh…a lump…of bloody flesh…”

Ye Xiao was stunned for a moment. He turned his head to glance at the human silhouette that had been drawn on the ground with white chalk. The deceased’s body had already been stored inside a black plastic bag by the forensics group and was on a stretcher, ready to be lifted into the car.

He hurriedly raced over to stop them.

A skinless corpse? Ye Xiao crouched next to the stretched and doubtfully tilted his head. When he slowly pulled open the zipper on the body bag, an intolerable stench of blood immediately assailed his nostrils, choking him so that he couldn’t help but hold his breath.

And what gradually revealed itself as the zipper was pulled down was a dark red…mound of flesh?

His heart was struck with shock. If it were not for the corpse’s shape, he really would not have been able if it was a human or not…because it didn’t even have eyes, a nose, or a mouth.

“This is a bit similar to the teriyaki drumstick you ate this morning.”

Su Mu’s cold voice floated out from behind.

Ye Xiao felt a wave of nausea. He whipped his head around to fiercely glare at Su Mu before asking in irritation, “Is your mouth unable to say anything moral?”

Su Mu raised a brow. Instead of replying, he bent down to inspect the corpse himself. After studying it for a while, he muttered quietly, “The murderer has very skilled technique.”

“Indeed, their technique is quite skilled. The incision into the body’s fatty layer is extremely level, and the skin cut off was thin. The ability to make such a delicate and meticulous cut should be something that only a surgical blade or some specialised medical tools could achieve.”

Ye Xiao’s gloved finger lightly slide across the surface of the body. After some thought, he stood and glanced around as he said, “There aren’t any obvious traces of struggling here, nor many bloodstains. This might not be the first crime scene.”

He then looked at Su Mu and asked, “Time of death is?”

Su Mu did not even lift his head as he stayed crouched next to the body. He picked up the deceased’s wrist to examine it carefully as he responded, “The preliminary determination is that the time of death should have been six to ten hours ago.”

Ye Xiao checked his watch and stated, “Which means around ten or two at night yesterday. Within this period, the deceased was killed, then skinned. Afterwards, the criminal discarded the body here—”

“No, there’s something you need to amend there.”

Su Mu gazed up at Ye Xiao and said in a heavy voice, “The forensics staff said that judging from the extent with which the blood clotted on the body’s surface, they should have first been skinned and then killed. Or perhaps, both were done simultaneously. According to the initial conclusions, the victim should have died from excessive blood loss after the vein in their arm was slashed.”

“What? You’re saying that the deceased was skinned while still alive?”

“Yes.”

Ye Xiao was shocked. Skinning a person alive was a scene that made one’s hair rise on end just from thinking about it.

Su Mu stood, his brows furrowed slightly as he remained silent.

Ye Xiao studied him, then pointed at the other’s now bloodstained white gloves to ask, “What are you holding in your hands?”

Su Mu slowly opened his palm. To Ye Xiao’s surprise, a blood-soaked flower lay there. It was a very small one that was right in full bloom. The flower still had half of its thin and slender green stem. The originally pink petals were mostly dyed crimson from the blood.

The bloody red flower staining the snow-white glove with its colour formed a somewhat abnormal image that was both sad and beautiful.

“It’s a Japanese rose.” Su Mu placed the flower in a transparent evidence bag as he added, “The colouring makes it seem quite fresh. It shouldn’t have been picked that long ago.”

“Where did you find it?” Ye Xiao took the plastic bag to take a closer look.

“Next to the body.”

“Next to the body? But how could a rose grow in this small alley?”

“It’s because it couldn’t that this might have been brought by the killer.”

“Eh, you mean that while the killer was discarding the corpse, they also purposely brought a flower to place by the body?”

“Perhaps.” Su Mu thoughtfully studied the chalked outline on the ground.

“Fuck, that’s pretty disturbing. Skinning someone alive and placing a flower next to them. Why would they do such a thing?”

“The murderer must have his own beliefs and reasons.”

“Could he be hinting at something?” Ye Xiao blinked at Su Mu.

Su Mu did not answer, seemingly deep in thought.

Two days later, the forensics department officially released the autopsy report.

The deceased was a young woman named Yue Shan, twenty-two years old this year. She was a recent graduate from S-University’s finance department. The night she was killed, she had gone karaoking with two university classmates. After singing, they had all split to go home at around ten that evening.

The other students did not know that Yue Shan had encountered a mishap on her way home. Only on the second night when Yue Shan’s parents had been unable to locate their daughter anywhere had they finally reported to the police with no other options.

Since the deceased had been skinned and did not have a face, they had only been able to verify the person’s identity through DNA testing. When the family members came to identify the body, Ye Xiao accompanied Yue Shan’s parents to walk into the forensics department’s morgue. The moment the freezer drawer was slowly opened, a lump of wounded, dark-red flesh was revealed behind the freezing white mist. Yue Shan’s mother couldn’t help but be shocked. With a scream, she fainted on the spot.

Yue Shan’s father endured his anguish as he held onto his wife and said in a trembling voice, “Sorry, I really cannot confirm if this is my daughter or not. Shan Shan…Shan Shan shouldn’t be like this…”

As he spoke, the crying man shakily pulled out a wallet from his pocket. Inside was a family photograph.

Ye Xiao took it to inspect.

The girl standing in the middle was supposed to be the deceased from this case, Yue Shan. She wore a dress with cartoon art on it. Her hair was tied up in a long ponytail, and her smile was bright and energetic. Although her facial features weren’t particularly outstanding, one could tell from her bare face in the photo that she had really good skin that was white and tender, with a faint healthy flush, like clear, sparkling jade porcelain.

“Could you lend me this photo to make a copy?” Ye Xiao asked.

Mr. Yue hesitated for a moment, then nodded.

Afterwards, Ye Xiao arranged for Yue Shan’s parents to stay in the break room, as they still needed to give statements later. He took the photo and hurriedly rushed back to the office to tell Su Mu something. However, he discovered that Su Mu was not at his seat.

“Are you looking for Su Mu?” Mei Mei was holding a strange book in one hand while holding hot tea in her other. Without even raising her head, she said, “He said to go look for him in the file room when you came back.”

“File room? What’s he doing in the file room?” Ye Xiao knit his brows together.

“Don’t know. He seems to have been there the entire morning.”

“What the hell is that guy up to?”

Ye Xiao helplessly scratched his head. He could only go copy the photograph himself first, then record the statements from Yue Shan’s parents. After that, he carefully verified and sorted out the autopsy report. Once he finally finished everything, it was already four in the afternoon. It was then that he realised that Su Mu was still holed up in the file room without coming out. Thus, Ye Xiao immediately rushed straight to the file room.

The file room’s history was a bit long. It wasn’t in their newly constructed office building, but in a different aged, old-fashioned building. There usually were not many people going there. At the moment, only a few administrators stayed there to maintain the area.

The instant he stepped into that building, the stink of dust and mould assaulted him.

This place stored criminal records from many years ago, including a few unresolved cases, important information regarding criminals given the death penalty, and some internal police data. Dust covered every dark corner. It was possible that any random pulled-out document would be about some bloody murder case.

The file room had rows of ceiling-tall steel shelves, each with seven levels. They were lined with file after file, organised according to year and case type. Their numbers were as vast as the stars in the sky.

Ye Xiao’s hard shoes made echoing knocks through the chilling silence in the room. He strode past many rows of shelves, passing through the entire file room. Only after reaching the second to last shelf did he finally spot that guy’s back.

Su Mu was under a dim light, standing at the end of the shelf alone. His back was facing Ye Xiao as his head was down, engrossed in looking at something.

“Oi, what are you up to over here?”

Ye Xiao called out to him while walking over, but Su Mu did not reply.

“What are you looking at with so much concentration? Oh yeah, with regards to that skinning case, I made a new discovery today.”

Ye Xiao continued to speak on without caring if Su Mu was listening or not. “I saw a photo of when Yue Shan was still alive. She was a very youthful girl, and her skin seemed exceptionally beautiful. I’m thinking that the murderer might have felt envy or maybe some type of perverted mentality and wanted to…er, I guess for now, we can say to collect it. That’s why they removed the victim’s entire skin. What do you think?”

Su Mu still did not utter a sound, not even raising his eyes.

Ye Xiao no longer found this strange, having gotten used to this cold attitude.

He chuckled as he hooked an arm around Su Mu’s neck and lowered his head to say mysteriously, “Let me tell you, aside from this, I made another major discovery. According to the wounds on the deceased’s wrists, I’m thinking that the killer should be—”

“Left-handed.”

Ye Xiao had only excitedly finished half his sentence before he was abruptly cut off frigidly by Su Mu. The latter slapped away the overly intimate arm as though swatting a fly and shot the other person a sideways glance.

Ye Xiao was taken aback. He frowned and replied, “What, so you knew all long?!”

SU Mu closed the folder in his hands with a clap as he looked at Ye Xiao and stated, “The murderer severed the vein on the victim’s right arm. Theoretically speaking, the incision should’ve been increasing in depth from left to right. However, in this incident, it shallowed from left to right. Thus, it’s very clear that the killer was holding the blade with their left hand.”

“Tch, you bastard, why didn’t you tell me earlier! Do you know what a partnership is, or what mutual sharing of information is?” Ye Xiao unhappily shot him a glare as he asked, “Then what now? What are you investigating?”

Su Mu waved the file in his hands and answered, “A perverted killer’s technique, a left-hander, a Japanese rose…I had the feeling that I’d seen these keywords somewhere before. I spent the entire day searching today and I finally found it. It seems that this was a pervert’s serial killing case from fifty years ago.”

“Pervert…serial killing…case? And fifty years ago?”

Ye Xiao raised his brows in astonishment, staring at Su Mu in slight amusement.

Su Mu remained unmoved. He seriously continued, “Yes. To be more accurate, it was forty-nine years ago. At the time, a serial killing case had appeared in this city. There was a total of three victims, all young females. The first victim had her tongue cut off, the second victim had her hair pulled off along with her scalp, and the third victim had her nails removed from both hands and feet. And at every single crime scene, there was a bloodstained Japanese rose placed next to the victim’s body. Moreover, judging from the investigation at the time, the murderer just happened to be left-handed as well.”

“Wow, such coincidences exist?” Ye Xiao was extremely flabbergasted as he asked, “But if it’s a case from forty-nine years ago, it shouldn’t be the actions of the same killer right? Perhaps it’s a copycat crime?”

Su Mu shook his head and denied, “No. Because these incidents were too violent and bloody, they were not made public so as not to give rise to panic, nor did any media or newspaper report it. It was a secret that only those within the police knew. There is no way that outsiders were aware. In addition, even if it was a copycat crime, it’s already been so many years; what meaning would there be in imitating it now? Typically, copycat crimes are for the sake of passing off one’s crimes to another. But the murderer from forty-nine years ago has long since been punished according to the law.”

“Punished according to the law? You mean the killer was captured?”

“Yes. The killer was arrested after the third person was killed. However, he remained silent throughout the interrogation period and refused to say a single word no matter what. He did not voice his motive for killing either. Moreover, the tongue, hair, and nails of those three victims were never found after the case ended.”

“Perhaps he didn’t have any motive or objective and he was simply a perverted homicidal maniac.” Ye Xiao shrugged and asked curiously, “Exactly what kind of person was this perverted maniac killer?”

Su Mu opened the file he was holding and glanced at it before answering, “His surname was Shen, his full name was Shen Guo Zhong. At the time, he was forty-one years old. He had previously been a surgeon. He was divorced with his wife for many years and he had a daughter named Shen Wei. But this Shen Wei died from a fire at age fifteen. Afterwards, Shen Guo Zhong resigned from his job at the hospital due to the grief from mourning for his daughter.”

“Wait, Shen Wei…” Ye Xiao interrupted. “Which ‘wei’? The ‘wei’ from rose?”

“Yes.”

Ye Xiao furrowed his brows, seemingly pondering something. However, he did not voice it.

Su Mu shut the folder and flatly added, “Shen Guo Zhong was executed by the firing squad forty-nine years ago, on December 11th at 10:30 AM, at L District’s Baisha Execution Grounds. He died from a single shot. However, according to the prison officer that had delivered him to his execution site at the end, Sheng Guo Zhong had smiled before his imminent death in a very eerie manner that made one feel chills. And the instant before the bullet pierced through his chest, he suddenly shouted the only words he had ever voiced since being captured.”

“Oh? What did he say?”

“He said…” Su Mu paused. “I will return.”

“Pfft, what? Return?” Ye Xiao was taken aback for a moment, but he couldn’t help but burst out in laughter. “What kind of joke is that? He’s already dead, how could he return? Does he think he’s Voldemort?”

As Ye Xiao laughed in great amusement, Su Mu did not join in. He merely watched on with unfeeling eyes.

Thus, after Ye Xiao laughed for a while, his laughter turned into dry chuckled. Finally, he cleared his throat and tilted his head to stare at Su Mu as he huffed, “Oi, please don’t say that you suspect it’s related to some strange force or god.”

“It’s not as though you have never witnessed such matters before.”

Su Mu shot him a look.

Ye Xiao was speechless. He scratched his head for a moment, then compromised, “Alright then. Let’s just say it’s as you state, that this Shen Guo Zhong really was able to return. In that case, why did he want to come back?”

The instant he asked this, he immediately started before Su Mu could even respond. Seemingly having thought of something, he lifted his head and murmured, “Tongue, hairs, nails, skin…if the killer truly did have some perverted collection hobby, then what is he still missing among his collected items?”

Su Mu was quiet.

The silent air in the file room seemed to drop several degrees. Ye Xiao only felt a cold wind blow across his back. It was as though concealed in darkness, there was an invisible face grinning at him.

It was Sheng Guo Zhong’s smile from before his death, both sinister and eerie.


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