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Published at 27th of July 2019 04:50:00 PM

Chapter 26

I love Chapter 26 of The Youthful You Who Was So Beautiful, because, for the first time in a long time, our two youths finally get to meet each other again, no matter how fleeting their ‘meeting’ is . This chapter also really struck a chord in me – how our two youths, having been bonded by their love and their trust in each other, to be so strong, so resilient, and so unyielding to everyone else outside their little circle .


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When the bell which signaled the end of the final graduation exam rang out, the students collectively heaved a huge sigh of relief, and immediately proceeded to pepper their schedules with all sorts of activities, ranging from karaoke, to playing computer games, to playing pool .

Just as Chen Nian was about the exit the school compound, she caught a glimpse of a tall, slender male donning a white t-shirt standing just right across the road .

Without a moment’s hesitation, Chen Nian flew down the steps leading towards the exit of the school compound, frantically shoving the numerous students enjoying a quiet and thankful reunion with their parents along the exterior of the school compound out of her way, and recklessly navigated the stream of traffic which separated her from the tall, slender male . Upon reaching the tall, slender male, she grabbed hold of the hem of his t-shirt and gave it a quick tug .

The tall and slender male turned back to look at her . It wasn’t him .

Just then, the tall and slender male lifted his head slightly, and directed his gaze towards the person who had appeared behind Chen Nian . Chen Nian let the hem of the white t-shirt fall from her sweaty grip, and slowly turned back .

It was Zheng Yi, along with numerous other police officers dressed in casual attire . Parked right next to them was a police car .

Chen Nian sat herself down in the police car . She had left one prison cell, only to enter another prison cell .

“Who is he?” Senior Yang indicated at the tall, slender male who Chen Nian had ran towards moments earlier .

“I mistook him for somebody else . ” Chen Nian’s face had resumed its signature blank, calm and collected expression .

“Who did you think it was?”

“A classmate of mine . ”

“Does your classmate resemble Bei Ye?”

“Everybody resembles each other to a certain extent . ” A frosty expression settled over Chen Nian’s face . Outside the police car, innumerable students milled about in their school uniforms .

In the interrogation room, Chen Nian and the officers stared at each other in muted silence .

As Chen Nian had continually refused to provide the police officers with the contact details of her family members, and had exhibited extreme revulsion towards her form teacher and other teachers in school, Zheng Yi did not notify the school about Chen Nian’s second round of interrogation, and had instead invited the female lawyer who had been present for Chen Nian’s previous round of interrogation .

Zheng Yi started, “Do you know why we called you in today?”

“I don’t know . ” Chen Nian shook her head resolutely, the ends of her ponytail brushing lightly against the collar of her school uniform .

Senior Yang exchanged glances with Zheng Yi, his stern gaze warning Zheng Yi not to believe the words uttered by Chen Nian, but to proceed with the questioning as planned .

However, just as Zheng Yi opened his mouth to continue with the interrogation, the sharp, horrendous images from the video they had watched hours earlier flashed across his mind – the beating; the stripping; it was as though Chen Nian was just a piece of meat for all to share . Zheng Yi shut his eyes tightly, a sense of acute helplessness engulfing him from within . For a long time, Zheng Yi simply sat across Chen Nian, unable to bring himself to utter another word .

Senior Yang shot a quick glance at Zheng Yi before continuing the interrogation . “We have recently discovered a video recording, which showed the entire ordeal Wei Cai and her friends put you through the day before Wei Cai went missing . ”

Across the table, Chen Nian remained as still as a log .

“I’m sure you knew that there were a few perpetrators who were photographing and recording the entire bullying incident, so why did you tell us previously that you don’t remember what Wei Cai and her group of friends did to you?”  Senior Yang persisted, “I’m going to ask you once more – did you really forget what Wei Cai and her friends put you through?”

Chen Nian turned quietly towards Senior Yang, her sharp, judgmental gaze seemingly piercing through his entire being . “Do you wish for me to retain such memories?”

Senior Yang was at a momentary loss of words before recovering, “Why did you choose to hide the incident from us?”

Chen Nian didn’t respond to Senior Yang’s question, and simply countered with another question, “Would you like to hear me describe the incident in small, excruciating detail? Each and every single physical and verbal abuse I suffered at their hands? How strong or weak the guys were? The order of the persons who bullied me?”

Deathly silence .

The pale, white skin of the youthful girl seated in front of them seemed to glow in the dark room, the black pupils of her eyes akin to the dark night .

Her white school uniform was wrinkle free and unblemished, and was akin to the full moon –  clean, pure and icy .


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But Zheng Yi knew that the Chen Nian seated in front of him was no longer the youthful Chen Nian of the past .

Senior Yang finally responded, “The perpetrators who appeared in the video – no matter male or female, we will ensure that each and every single one of them is arrested and punished appropriately . ”

Chen Nian remain unmoved . Chen Nian stared silently at the police officers seated across her, just as they stared at her quietly and wordlessly . The futile words offered by Senior Yang offered little to no comfort, and was utterly meaningless to her .

But the interrogation had to continue . “Why didn’t you report the incident to the police?”

“Maybe I didn’t want those videos to become evidence, to be repeatedly analysed and surveyed by police officers such as yourselves . Or maybe…” Chen Nian raised her eyes and looked at each of them straight in the eyes, “I didn’t want to be the subject of the pitiful and sorrowful gazes which each of you are giving me right now . ”

Xiao Yao lowered her eyes without a moment’s hesitation .

“Or maybe…” Chen Nian continued, “I felt that, even if I were to turn to the police, there was nothing the police could do to protect me . ”

Zheng Yi felt as though he had been on the receiving end of a good, hard slap . Hu Xiao Die, Zeng Hao… He had been responsible for Chen Nian’s safety and protection in the cases involving Hu Xiao Die and Zeng Hao, but he had failed her on both counts – utterly and miserably .

“In any event, in your eyes, I am nothing but an object, a mere piece of evidence . You don’t view me as a normal human being . ” Chen Nian gently stroked the bright red string tied around her pale wrist .

“That’s not……” But what else was there to say?

Senior Yang interrupted, “It’s different this time round . The offences which Wei Cai and her group of friends committed against you – these offences are punishable by law, and may even result in incarceration for them . ”

“Oh? Is that so?” Chen Nian responded flippantly . It was as though Chen Nian couldn’t care less about what happened to the perpetrators who had inflicted such horrible pain on her .

“Having gone through such horrible pain and suffering, do you harbour any hatred for Wei Cai?”

“I don’t know . ”

“Why would you say that you don’t know?’

“It seems to be unnecessary and pointless to hate a person who is already dead . ”

Chen Nian’s response was similar to the response she had previously given when asked about her feelings towards Wei Cai .

Nobody knew whether Chen Nian’s calmness and peacefulness was a result of her forcing herself to forget the horrific incident that had happened to her, or whether Wei Cai’s disappearance had truly helped in Chen Nian’s release of all the negative emotions she had previously harboured against Wei Cai .

“Do you know Bei Ye?”

“No . ”

“Why did Bei Ye choose to protect you?”

“I don’t know . ” Chen Nian replied in a clipped, icy tone .

“In order to ensure that you had sufficient time to sit for your graduation exams, Bei Ye offered to provide us with more damning evidence which we have yet to uncover . What do you think is a reasonable explanation for Bei Ye’s behaviour?”

“I don’t know . ”

Chen Nian’s default response to nearly all the questions which had been flung at her by the police officers was simply “I don’t know . ”

Even when confronted with questions such as “Do you think Bei Ye harbours romantic feelings for you? Romantic feelings so strong, to the extent where he would commit a crime on your behalf?”

Chen Nian simply responded with her standard reply, “I don’t know . ”

Senior Yang probed, “You claim to be unaware, but we find this extremely hard to believe . ”

Chen Nian countered without skipping a beat, “Why are you questioning me about something Bei Ye did? Why would I have any understanding, or awareness, of Bei Ye’s train of thought?”

The police officers had no rebuttal to Chen Nian’s counter .


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Bei Ye’s interrogation room . The police officers here were similarly rebuffed, making little to no progress .

“Why did you murder Wei Cai?”

“Because Wei Cai tore off my mouth mask and identified me . ”

“Did you kill Wei Cai out of vengeance, due to the harm and the suffering which she had inflicted on Chen Nian?”

“No . ”

“Was Chen Nian the one who injured Wei Cai?”

“No . ”

“Do you harbour romantic feelings for Chen Nian?”

“I don’t have any romantic feelings for her . ”

“You offered to provide us with damning evidence – evidence which we have yet to uncover, just so that Chen Nian had sufficient time to sit for her graduation examinations . Can you explain the rationale and your motives for undertaking such a course of action?”

“I’m bored . The thought happened to cross my mind all of a sudden, so I simply acted on it . ”

“Bored? Simply acting on a sudden thought that crossed your mind?”

“Look – ever since I was born, I have been someone who acted rashly and spontaneously . I have no ambition, no goal, no pursuits in life – and so, I have no sense of restraint, and I simply act in accordance with how I feel at any particular point in time, be it raping or murdering somebody . It’s that simple – there is no specific, convoluted reason why I offered you what I did, I just wanted to do it, so I did . ”

“So your sudden good treatment of Chen Nian – it’s something you wanted to do at the spur of the moment, so you did it?”

“Ah . ”

“The one who murdered Wei Cai – is you?”

“Yes . ”

“Why did you murder Wei Cai?”

This question had been posed to Bei Ye innumerable times . Bei Ye stared the police officers interrogating him straight in the eyes, his gaze filled with unmistakeable iciness and contempt, and enunciated as slowly as he could, “Because . She . Tore . Off . My . Mouth . Mask . And . Identified . Me . ”

“Do you know about the bullying and harm which Wei Cai inflicted on Chen Nian before the day Wei Cai went missing?”

“No . ”

“Did you kill Wei Cai out of vengeance, due to the harm and the suffering which she had inflicted on Chen Nian?”

“No . ”

“Do you admit and confirm that you are the raincoat man?”

“Yes . ”

“The corpse which had been newly discovered, what is the name of the victim?”

“Lai Zi . ”

“The full name of the deceased?”

“Lai Qing . ”

“What is your relationship with the deceased?”


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“He was my friend . ”

“Why do you know the location of Lai Qing’s corpse?”

“Because I killed him . ”

“Why did you kill him?”

“Because he discovered my identity . ”

“What identity?”

“He discovered that I was the raincoat man . ”

“So you killed him, because he discovered that you were the raincoat man . ”

“Of course . Why should I keep him alive? To rat on me?” Bei Ye let out a cold, short laugh .

Bei Ye’s lawyer, who had been seated next to Bei Ye during the entire interrogation session, lowered his head onto his palms, and used his fist to prop his head up . He was at his wit’s end .

“Lai Qing was your childhood buddy who grew up with you?”

“Yes . ”

“But you nevertheless went ahead with your decision to kill him . Why?”

“Because, only the mouth of a dead person would be capable of keeping secrets . ” The youth replied nonchalantly .

The stories of the two youths melded together seamlessly – there were no loopholes to be found .

Senior Yang and the police offices filed out of the investigation room, and gathered for a short discussion .

Two youths, separated by a sole, singular wall between the two of them, each seated in their separate interrogation rooms,  unfrenzied, calm and silent; neither of them knowing that the other was within arm’s reach .

Two youths, both testimonies standing up to the pressure of scrutiny, and both offering no signs of cracking under the intense pressure of interrogation; it was either the two youths had nerves of steel and an impenetrable psychological barrier, or they were both simply telling the truth .

But, human beings often had an uncanny sixth sense; an underlying gut feeling; an intuition – especially police officers . A unshakable sense of strangeness and oddity settled over Zheng Yi’s heart .

However, aside from Zheng Yi, the remainder of the police officers were more inclined to simply believe both Chen Nian’s and Bei Ye’s testimonies . Xiao Yao persuaded Zheng Yi, “But Bei Ye knows the location of the corpse of a victim which we have yet to receive any notice of to-date; he even killed his friend in order to cover up his own tracks!”

“I know – but what if?” Zheng Yi stared at the two youths seated behind the transparent glass windows of the interrogation rooms . All of a sudden, Zheng Yi raised his finger and jabbed in Bei Ye’s direction, “What if, Bei Ye killed his friend, just so that he would be able to prove that he is the raincoat man?”

The case theory proposed by Bei Ye was so ludicrous, so absurd, that no other police officer had even contemplated such a case theory .

“What are you saying?!”

“What if, the only reason why the blood-stained shirt wasn’t fully burnt and destroyed, was to prove that he was the murderer; and the reason why the raincoat wasn’t fully burnt and destroyed, was to prove that he was the raincoat man?”

“So, what you’re saying is, Bei Ye isn’t the raincoat man, but is trying all ways and means to prove that he is the raincoat man?” Senior Yang looked at Zheng Yi incredulously, and fired back, “Why on earth would Bei Ye do that?”

“In order to mask the true motive behind Wei Cai’s murder . ” Zheng Yi rattled off his response without missing a beat, “Because, if Bei Ye isn’t the raincoat man, he would have no motive, no motivation to murder Wei Cai . If Bei Ye isn’t the raincoat man, he would be unable to serve as a shield and divert our attention from the real person who really harbored a murderous intent towards Wei Cai – Chen Nian .

Because of Chen Nian, because Bei Ye wanted to shield Chen Nian!”

Unable to contain himself any longer, Zheng Yi hollered desperately, “We are dealing with two separate cases here – the case of the raincoat man and the case of Wei Cai’s murder is two separate caes!”

Senior Yang rebutted Zheng Yi, “What you’ve just said is nothing but conjecture on your part – although we have the video evidencing the suffering which Wei Cai inflicted onto Chen Nian, we do not have any clear, solid evidence which points towards the ‘murderous intent‘ which Chen Nian purportedly harbors towards Wei Cai . What’s more, why would Bei Ye need to shield the real person who really harbored a murderous intent towards Wei Cai? Just because that person is Chen Nian?! In any event, why do we care about the person whom Bei Ye is purportedly ‘protecting’? So long as he is the one who murdered Wei Cai, why do we care about his motivations or intentions for the murder?”

Unable to come up with any logical response to Senior Yang’s barrage of questions, beads of cold sweat began to form on Zheng Yi’s forehead . Furrowing his brows, innumerable thoughts raised across Zheng Yi’s mind when, all of a sudden, he was struck by a frightening, alarming thought . Whipping his head to gaze at Chen Nian, a chill slowly crawled up as spine as he uttered, “Unless…”

“Unless what?”

“Unless Chen Nian is a joint criminal!” Zheng Yi’s face was an unnatural shade of ashen white, as he began to rattle uncontrollalbly, “Stripping Wei Cai naked, was not because he wanted to prevent her clothes from providing us with clues that pointed towards the season and the time period when she was killed . Rather, it was because Wei Cai’s uniform contained crucial pieces of evidence – such as the bloody hand print of the joint murderer!”

The minute Zheng Yi had completed his iteration of his case theory, his head began to clear, and he was suddenly awash with inexplicable feelings of regret .

Senior Yang and the remainder of the police officers stared at Zheng Yi with their mouths agape .

Anxious, Xiao Yao rebuked Zheng Yi, “Zheng Yi! The conjectures which you had just voiced aloud goes against the chain of evidence which we currently have on hand! You must focus and rely on the evidence to guide your investigations and the formulation of your case theory, and not your feelings! The way you’re handling the investigation right now is really unfair!”

The sky had already darkened, and the police station had started to switch on their lights in preparation for the impending darkness . The case was about to close .

The grandfather clock in the corridor creaked as it chimed . Zheng Yi’s eyes drifted away from the police officers standing in front of him as he stared into space, various images from the past flashing before his very eyes – Chen Nian, Bei Ye, every answer they had given, every single expression which had appeared on their faces .

On the other side of the transparent glass windows of the interrogation rooms, Bei Ye’s expression was one of calmness . So was Chen Nian’s .

Why?

“Why did you murder Wei Cai?”

“Because Wei Cai tore off my mouth mask and identified me . ”

“Having gone through such horrible pain and suffering, do you harbour any hatred for Wei Cai?”

“I don’t know . ”

“I’ll pick you up after school?”

“There’s no need to trouble yourself . I’m fine now . ”

“Do you consider yourself as someone who is frequently sensitive and aware of his surroundings?”

“Not really… the stalker actually bumped into me once whilst I was walking with Chen Nian . ”

“Weren’t you the slightest bit worried that Chen Nian might reject your request?“

“I overheard Chen Nian and Xiao Mi discussing Titanic…Chen Nian mentioned that it would be really difficult to get tickets for Titanic . ”

“Chen Nian told me that there was someone who was protecting her . ”

“Yup . I think I’ve seen this girl before… Xiao Bei said that he owed her money . A lot of money . ”

Whether all these disparate incidents were critical clues pointing towards an unfathomable truth, or whether it was his own imagination going into overdrive and drawing random links, there was only one way to find out . Zheng Yi lifted his feet, and strode towards Chen Nian’s interrogation room .

Chen Nian had just inked her signature at the bottom of the transcript of her interrogation, and was about to leave . Rushing into the interrogation room, Zheng Yi grabbed the transcript and the ballpoint pen from Chen Nian’s hand before hauling Chen Nian up from her seat, as though Chen Nian was a tiny, hapless chicken . Dragging Chen Nian  out of the door of her interrogation room,

Zheng Yi forcibly kicked the door of the second interrogation room wide open, and shoved Chen Nian in . The force caused Chen Nian to slam into the wall of the interrogation room, her hair in a haphazard disarray; at that very moment, Bei Ye raised his head,

their gazes interlocked, neither managing to find any words to say,

Zheng Yi instantly dragged Chen Nian out of Bei Ye’s interrogation room, and slammed the door shut with a loud thud, severing all connection between Chen Nian and Bei Ye .

Bei Ye and Chen Nian had only exchanged a single glance, but that was enough,

because,

Love, is something which one is unable to hide; even if one shuts his or her mouth as tightly as one could, one could never mask it from one’s gaze .

……

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