Everyone else had already taken their seats; the only vacant spots left were the two by the door.
As long as Chi Qing had a choice, he would never sit with this nutcase.
Chi Qing lifted his chin slightly, directing his words at Ji Mingrui, “You, get up.”
“We’re switching seats.”
Ji Mingrui had tricked Chi Qing into coming and, fearing retribution, hastily said, “It’d be a pain for me to get up out of here.”
“Look, there are people on both sides of me,” Ji Mingrui said, “and Jiang Yu and Su Xiaolan would be really sad to see me go.”
Jiang Yu, “……”
Su Xiaolan, “……”
Isn't it just a seat? We’re just having a meal, it’s eating no matter where you sit.
Nobody would be sad to see you go.
Chi Qing didn’t have a choice.
After they sat down, Xie Lin actually didn’t say anything more, just calmly taking away the cup filled with lemonade from in front of him.
Chi Qing lifted his eyes and looked at him.
Xie Lin explained, “It’s cold.”
Chi Qing retracted his gaze again.
Xie Lin was like a spirit lingering around after death; not even twenty seconds passed before he reappeared within Chi Qing’s line of sight.
The man’s hand was holding a glass in his hand, placing the steaming cup in front of him—he had refilled his own empty glass with tea and passed it over to him, “Just now when you were standing in the doorway and talking, I could hear you have a bit of a cold.
Have you checked your temperature?”
Chi Qing thought that Xie Lin acting like a normal person couldn’t last for more than two sentences, and he'd probably say ‘sorry, I shouldn’t have held you down on the ground the other day’ and so on next.
Thus, he took the opportunity to cut off the line of discussion, “Thank you, you didn’t need to bother.”
Su Xiaolan rarely saw Chi Qing without his gloves on, and people would always be filled with curiosity when laying eyes upon something they rarely saw.
She was sitting directly across from Chi Qing, and couldn’t help but take a couple of extra looks at his hands.
The bones were long and thin, and dazzlingly white under the incandescent lights.
Chi Qing was actually looking down at his own hands too.
First, because he felt uneasy without his gloves on; although the temperature of the cup was clearly controlled well, he still felt like his hands were burning.
Second, because Xie Lin was sitting next to him, and that made him think of something he wasn’t sure was a coincidence or not.
At that moment, Xie Lin’s hand was resting nearby.
The joints of the man’s hands were distinct, his wrists were thin, his fingers were tapping absent-mindedly on the tabletop.
He had that same posture as always, and was listening to Ji Mingrui and the others chat.
Ji Mingrui was sharing his experiences investigating earlier that day, “I went to Bianmin, and that kid said there were exactly two people who had come to buy knives……”
Chi Qing moved his fingers, shifting them away from the walls of the glass, thinking to himself, Last time when I couldn’t read his mind, was it just a coincidence?
Perhaps it was just that he happened not to have been thinking about anything at that moment.
But how could a person have no inner voice?
In fact, Chi Qing wanted to test if last time was actually a coincidence or not.
But just as his finger started to angle over, and was a millimeter away, it quickly stuck back to the wall of the cup.
Obviously, his mysophobia wouldn’t allow it.
To touch or not to touch, it was truly a difficult choice to make.
There were watchful gazes all around, that many pairs of eyes around the table, invisibly making the psychological burden heavier.
While Chi Qing was dawdling around, Xie Lin’s hand was the first to make a move.
He swiped open his phone and took a look at the time, and after his arm hand fell by his side instead of going back to resting on the tabletop.
Xie Lin’s hand was near the many folds of the tablecloth; it was in a hidden position, no one would notice movements happening beneath the table.
For the first time in his life, Chi Qing’s curiosity about someone gradually masked the discomfort his mysophobia brought along.
Thus, a few minutes later, Chi Qing reluctantly released his grip with a complicated state of mind.
He calmly lowered his hand, lowered his hand to just about where Xie Lin’s was, the backs of their two hands just about to touch.
Then, Chi Qing steeled himself, extending out a single finger to touch the back of Xie Lin’s hand.
Rather than calling it a “touch,” the word “poke” would be a much more accurate descriptor.
After Chi Qing finished poking, he waited for a few seconds, but the distorted voice never came.
The sound in his ears was still Ji Mingrui prattling on.
“You two are really amazing, our only two suspects are still the two of you—When I came out of Bianmin I felt like an idiot……”
At the same time, Chi Qing endured the discomfort and poked.
After a while, he poked a second time.
Because he could only rely on feeling, this time his fingertip angled downwards a little, happening to land on the man’s finger with the ring on it.
The thin silver ring let off a slight chill.
Chi Qing brushed his finger downward, and only then ran into that bit of warmth.
According to his mysophobia, he wasn’t at all someone who could become familiar with someone just after meeting them.
Chi Qing pushed through the impulse to clean his hands, and waited for another moment.
But as before, nothing happened at all.
Ji Mingrui was still talking, “……Don’t tell me you two caught each other.
I also want to drag you both back and report mission completed.”
The sound of Ji Mingrui’s voice was genuine.
It was mixed with the sound of dishes bumping against each other as the waiter cleared the plates, and he could even hear the faint chirps of car horns from outside the window.
But other than that, there was nothing.
Chi Qing’s mind flashed completely blank.
—He really couldn’t read Xie Lin’s mind.
Even though Chi Qing had already been careful to make the area of contact as small as possible, he’d already reached his limit poking those two times.
Moreover, after he finished poking, he thought that he must be crazy to have done something like that.
Right after he finished his test, he was preparing to use a wet paper towel to clean his hands when he lifted his eyes and saw Xie Lin’s slightly inclined head.
Xie Lin had clearly been watching him for a while, just like some kind of animal letting its prey wantonly wander around right next to it.
He saw how Chi Qing had poked the back of his hand despite the unwillingness to touch him written all over his face, and waited for Chi Qing to retract his hand before asking, “What’re you doing?”
Chi Qing fell silent for a moment.
“The tablecloth was crooked.”
Xie Lin emphasized, “You touched my hand, not the tablecloth.”
Chi Qing, “I bumped into it on accident.”
Xie Lin let out an entirely insincere “oh.” He dragged his voice out, as if he were saying ‘okay, whatever you say, it’s already done anyways.’
Chi QIng, “……”
“But there really aren’t very many people buying those knives.
Who knows how long it’ll be until the two left on the shelf are sold,” Ji Mingrui finished expressing his thoughts on his visit to Bianmin.
After he finished narrating his final conclusion, he finally took notice of what was happening across the table from him, “—What’re you two talking about?”
But Xie Lin didn’t respond to him like he usually would, and didn’t continue squabbling with Chi Qing either, asking all of the sudden, “How many knives did you say were left on the shelf?”
After Ji Mingrui spoke, he realized that Chi Qing had also turned to him all of the sudden.
He vaguely sensed that something was wrong, “Is there a problem?”
The two “suspects” who had bought knives glanced at each other.
The suspect with the surname Xie asked, “When you went to buy your knife, how many were left on the shelf?”
Suspect Chi answered, “Five.
After I bought mine four were left.”
Xie Lin, “Then I bought one, and only the two me and him bought were in the sales records, so there should be three of those knives left.”
That night past eleven, when a crowd of people rushed into Bianmin Grocery, the little boy was already accustomed to answering their questions.
So much so that he didn’t even wait for Ji Mingrui to open his mouth, just said very skilfully, “Policeman-shushu, nobody’s bought a knife today.”
(t/n: 叔叔/shu1shu1 means ‘uncle.’ It specifically refers to your father’s younger brother, but it’s also kind of a generic way to refer to a man who’s older than you)
Ten minutes earlier, after Ji MIngrui had finished listening to Xie Lin and Chi Qing, he threw down his balled-up napkin even though the rest of their food had just arrived, picking up his coat and running out.
“Think carefully, who else came by that day when it was raining.”
After the police had sealed the crime scene, the murder didn’t have a weapon, so he had come here.
It was really late that night, and raining again; there couldn’t have been many customers coming and going.
“Count the people you know too, and he wasn’t necessarily here to buy anything.
Can you think of anyone?”
The little boy paused at correcting his homework, and said, “Li-shushu.”
The boy, “He’s xiao-Kang’s dad.”
The little boy fished out his phone, searched for a long time in the out-dated phone, then finally found a group photo.
The photo was clearly taken when two families took their kids out to play, and the little boy pointed to a man wearing cargo amongst them, “That’s Li-shushu.”
The man was wearing gray cargo, his eyes were brown, and somewhat muddy.
Ji Mingrui stared at that photograph, his memory pulling him back to that day when Wang-a’po suffered the loss of the wood carving passed down in her family for generations, “How could it be him?”
“This ‘Li-shushu’s full name is Li Guangfu.
He came to Southern China to work as a laborer during his early years; his undertaking is clearing the waterways, but he does administrative work—his main responsibility is allocation of staff.
He has two sons, the younger one was just born this year, he’s not even one yet.” Su Xiaolan got back to the police station first, and as soon as she got there she pulled up Li Guangfu’s personal information.
Cargo-man sat in the police station for the second time.
He never in a million years thought he’d end up scoring a second time, “What is it this time? Yeah, I went there that night.
I took a trip to the store on a rainy day, is that a crime?”
Ji Mingrui, “What did you go to the store to buy?”
“I called off and wasn’t working that day.
An appliance broke at home, so I went to the store to buy a screwdriver.”
“You only bought a screwdriver?”
“And a pack of cigarettes.
What is this about, I still need to rush home.”
A screwdriver and cigarettes.
It fit with the sales records, he really wasn’t lying.
On the other side, Chi Qing and Xie Lin, who had been forcibly roped in to “assist” with the investigation because they held important information in hand, sat side by side.
Xie Lin flipped open the case files once again, “There’s only one, do you wanna look together?”
Compared to the case, Chi Qing was actually more interested in this nucase whose mind he repeatedly hadn’t been able to read.
He, intentionally or otherwise, looked over at Xie Lin’s hand.
Although Xie Lin always had a carefree appearance, his power of observation was abnormally sharp.
His gaze was clearly still fixed on the case file, but he lifted a hand and waved it in front of Chi Qing’s eyes.
Xie Lin offered his hand in Chi Qing’s direction, sticking that skinny hand in front of his face.
Chi Qing, “The hell are you doing?”
“Giving you my hand,” Xie Lin said, “It seems like those two pokes while we were eating weren’t enough for you.”
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