Chapter 16: Peculiarities

As Qin Ran’s emotions surged like a tempest, Lu Xin, a picture of composure, swiftly grasped the situation.
Despite the chilling presence of a gun aimed at him, he drew strength from the reassuring sight of his sister standing resolutely by Qin Ran’s side, her unwavering eyes firmly locked onto him.
Serenely, he disavowed any involvement, “Not me.”

As Lu Xin confronted Qin Ran, a measure of seriousness accompanied his gaze.
Tasked by none other than Chen Jing herself to unravel the mysteries surrounding the man before him, Lu Xin found himself at a crossroads, uncertain of the best approach to peel back the layers of Qin Ran’s life.

Aware that time was a precious resource in this intricate puzzle, he yearned to streamline his efforts and unearth the truth with utmost efficiency.

Qin Ran’s intense gaze pierced the air, and the cold touch of the gun’s barrel sent shivers down Lu Xin’s spine.
Suspicion hung in the atmosphere like a dark cloud, saturating the moment with malevolence that was hard to ignore.
“You’re from the Qingcheng Bureau of investigative and Municipal Affairs?” Qin Ran’s inquiry carried a dangerous edge, his voice laden with tension.

Remaining steadfast in the face of this tense confrontation, Lu Xin extended a reassuring hand, hoping to quell the rising animosity.
“No, calm down,” he urged, despite the palpable discomfort.
Observing Qin Ran’s restless demeanor and the trembling grip on the firearm, Lu Xin’s instincts screamed a warning of imminent danger.

An eerie smile adorned Lu Xin’s sister’s face as she silently observed the scene, her identity veiled by cascading locks of hair.
With the finesse of a seasoned operative, she swiftly intervened, deftly flicking Qin Ran’s hand, causing the gun to slip from his grasp.
The weapon flew towards Lu Xin, and his honed reflexes kicked in, enabling him to catch it with unwavering precision.

In a swift motion, Lu Xin disengaged the trigger lock, effectively neutralizing the threat.
With the unsettling presence of the firearm now contained within his bag, he returned his unyielding gaze to Qin Ran, determined to dissipate the fog of confusion that enshrouded his mind.
“I’m not investigating you,” Lu Xin clarified firmly, “but rather checking if you’ve encountered any peculiar incidents recently.”

Under the weight of the moment, Qin Ran’s anxiety surged, his eyes darting around in search of lurking threats.
Trembling, he inquired, “How… how did you do that?”

Lu Xin’s response was measured and cautious, “Stop asking, you won’t be able to replicate it anyway.” Shielding his bag protectively, he continued his inquiry, seeking to unravel the truths veiled in the shadows.
“So, have you encountered any unusual events?”

The contrast between the two men’s demeanors became starkly apparent, akin to a dance between darkness and light.
In this battle of wits and wills, Qin Ran couldn’t shake the unsettling feeling that he might be outmatched, caught in the intricate steps of a dangerous duet.
The tension in the air was palpable, leaving Qin Ran with a lingering sense of unease, unsure of the outcome that lay ahead.

With a fleeting moment of hesitation, Qin Ran gathered the courage to respond, his voice betraying a subtle undercurrent of unease as he inquired, “What kind of event?” There was evident reluctance to delve into the specifics, as if the memories were best left undisturbed in the recesses of his mind.

Carefully measuring his words, Lu Xin maintained an unwavering composure as he replied, “For instance, the recent spate of fatalities?” The gravity of his statement hung in the air, casting a somber shadow over Qin Ran’s countenance, which instantly turned apprehensive.
The sight of Lu Xin, poised with two guns, ignited a mix of fear and concern in his eyes.

With an intense glare, Qin Ran vented his frustration, a palpable hint of anger underscoring his words, “Damn it, someone else is privy to this.
I knew it couldn’t be just me…” His bloodshot eyes locked onto Lu Xin, as if seeking answers amid the enigma that shrouded them both.
“I don’t know whose allegiance you hold, but I… did encounter that.”

A sense of trepidation enveloped Lu Xin as he probed further, striving to grasp the gravity of the situation.
“Encounter what?” he inquired, his voice tinged with apprehension.
The weight of the unknown loomed heavily, hinting at something far more sinister than mere vendettas.

In an act of desperation, Qin Ran swiftly consumed the still-steaming tea in one gulp, his unwavering gaze remaining fixed on Lu Xin’s face.
He grappled inwardly, wrestling with the decision to disclose the truth before finally succumbing to fear and vulnerability.
“It’s something nobody would believe if I divulged it…” he confessed, the weight of his words hanging heavy in the air.

Responding with a steadying reassurance, Lu Xin extended a comforting word, “Take your time.” He understood that these revelations could be disorienting and emotionally draining, necessitating a tactful and delicate approach.

Taking a deep breath, Qin Ran endeavored to discern something from Lu Xin’s inscrutable expression.
After a moment of contemplation, he continued, a sense of deflation apparent in his tone, “It all began 14 days ago.
You see, the business I’m entangled in extends beyond mere goods trading.
Many loiter in this realm of endeavors, yet profits remain meager.
Thus, I seize any lucrative opportunity that presents itself.
The Bureau of Investigative and Municipal Affairs is privy to this much.”

Lu Xin nodded, projecting an air of empathetic understanding, though he acknowledged that Qin Ran’s world was far from straightforward.

“That fateful day, it all began after I traded for a vial of pills,” Qin Ran’s eyes turned bloodshot, the intensity in his voice baring the gravity of the situation.
“I was transacting with Old Cui, a wretched individual specializing in such substances.
We had collaborated on a few occasions before, but on that day, he arrived alone for the trade.
Deeming him an easy target, I seized the opportune moment and killed him…”

“I claimed the entire batch of small pills for myself, enough to yield tens of thousands…”

“Tens of thousands?” Lu Xin couldn’t conceal his astonishment, his emotions orchestrating a symphony of intrigue across his face.

“The focus lies in what ensued,” Qin Ran locked eyes with him, his gaze holding the weight of the grim narrative about to unfold.
“I dismembered Old Cui’s lifeless body and offered it as a feast to the voracious wild dogs.
In that moment, I believed the ordeal had reached its gruesome climax, but destiny had other designs.
The very next day, a peculiar woman sought me out, introducing herself as Cui Wang, the rightful claimant to Old Cui’s life and the batch of goods he had peddled.”

Lu Xin’s expression shifted, his curiosity morphing into the demeanor of a seasoned investigator, drawn to an elusive quarry.

“I had no affiliation with her, but the audacity of her claim led me to speculate that she might be Old Cui’s concealed mistress.
Without remorse, I silenced her as well, her life slipping into the depths of the freshly-poured cement at the nearby construction site,” Qin Ran sneered.

Lu Xin listened with an impassive demeanor, yet the gears of his mind were set in motion.

“Yet, as time barreled on, an unsettling unease gnawed at my soul, urging me to venture deeper.
To my bewilderment, it was unveiled that the woman named Wang Ting bore no connection to Old Cui.
Can you fathom the eerie strangeness of it all?” Qin Ran sought solace in Lu Xin’s validation, as if hoping to find reassurance amid the enigma that entwined them.

Lu Xin could only nod, the gravity of the revelation etching lines of confusion on his face.

“The strangest part lurks in the shadows, waiting to be revealed,” Qin Ran’s expression grew fiercer.
“Two days after the previous encounter, two more figures emerged before me—an elderly man and a young lad, the latter bearing the name Huazi.
One proclaimed to be Cui Wang, while the other stood as Wang Ting.
Wordlessly, they demanded retribution for their lives, plunging headlong into a ferocious confrontation…”

He gestured towards his neck, his finger dragging along his flesh, recounting the chilling moments.
“Their lives were extinguished too.”

“Four…” Lu Xin was taken aback, the pieces of the puzzle falling into place, but still leaving gaps of bewilderment.

“Then, the shadows enshrouded me with a darkness even graver,” Qin Ran’s voice fell to a low whisper, as if the words themselves held a power beyond comprehension.
“Four days after the prior encounter, four more figures emerged, all strangers to me.
They broke into my home, driven by a madness I could scarcely comprehend.
One claimed to be Old Cui, another insisted she was Wang Ting, while yet another proclaimed himself Uncle Zhang, and the last identified as Wuzi… It was utter madness!” A discordant symphony of terror was eched in his eyes as he spoke.

Lu Xin was shocked and couldn’t help but inquire, “What happened next?”

“I couldn’t bring myself to end their lives as well,” Qin Ran’s eyes reddened.

He spoke in a hushed tone, the words laden with sorrow, “It all felt too eerie, too haunting.
Instead, I locked them away, hoping to shield myself from the horrors they carried.
But… there’s something you need to witness.”

With that, he extended an invitation, beckoning Lu Xin to follow him.

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