T/N: This is a locked chapter.
The Judge 17
Shen Yexi had a walkie-talkie on him, so Jiang Hu was aware of the conversations on his end—he could hear all of it.
This was Ke Ruhui’s territory, so no one knew what was in that wooden house a hundred meters at the back. Perhaps it was a child’s dead body, or perhaps it was a group of murderous, vile and self-righteous people like Li Jingrong, or perhaps it was a ticking bomb, sulfuric acid or venom about to spill… When it came to animosity, there was never a limit to human imagination.
Jiang Hu knew he had always lacked the courage to defeat the man in front of him. Things like righteousness prevailing over evil only existed in fairytales. He understood it all too well that the so-called “righteous” and “kindness” were only constructed by humans to reassure themselves. If you want a happy ending, you would not succeed by simply relying on those things.
Ke Ruhui commented, “You’re feeling fear.”
Jiang Hu halted, his cold gaze looking up to land on him. Even Yang Man had never seen this expression on Jiang Hu. When this constantly amicable young man, who never raised his voice, swept a cold look over at him, his eyes carried shocking traces of fierce malice.
Ke Ruhui sighed, telling Yang Man, “Look. This expression is the real J. How could he possibly be a feeble and peaceful person?”
“Earlier, you said that the child would be dead if I went together with Yexi. Then, I postulate a few possibilities.” Jiang Hu crossed his arms, forcing down the murderous intent in his heart and the icy coldness on his face. “Maybe that child is already dead. No matter who goes, he’s dead.”
“I certainly did not say that they won’t die if you don’t go.” Ke Ruhui was restrained firmly against the wall by Yang Man. Yang Man had always been someone impulsive, so her grip was not light. Half of his face was almost deformed, smeared with grime. Still, when he forcefully turned to speak and look at Jiang Hu, he was indescribably calm and composed.
They all said that if God wished one to be ruined, He would make one go insane first. Yang Man had seen too many lunatics; they may be hysterical or unreasonable, but she had never seen such a collected one before. When things became extreme, they developed in the opposite direction. Perhaps his madness was so extreme that it turned him calm instead.
“But I don’t think that’s a big possibility. Using such a roundabout way only to give us a child’s corpse is not your style.”
“What if I did it just to give one more blow to that woman who only has a gleam of hope left?”
Jiang Hu’s phone rang. Jiang Hu picked it up, and positioned his walkie-talkie near the receiver for Shen Yexi to hear. The caller was An Yining. After Song Xiaofeng handed over this address, he had called An Yining to check the residents living here. On the other end, An Yining rapidly explained the identity of the female owner—a widow whose husband had been a criminal police officer who lost his life in a drug enforcement operation. She ran a small motel and raised her son alone. She had no relatives close by.
“You won’t.” After listening silently, Jiang Hu hung up the call. “This woman is a classic example of a victim, but she’s absolutely not your final target. Based on the criminal spin model, you should be searching for an opponent of an even higher level.”
“For example, you,” Ke Ruhui continued.
The corners of Jiang Hu’s lips raised in a false smile. He shifted his glasses and lowered his head slightly, his slightly long bangs fell down as a cold glint flashed across his glasses. Yang Man found this Jiang Hu profoundly mysterious, and chilly. Only Jiang Hu himself knew that his subconscious adjustment of his glasses was only to prevent his curled fingers from trembling.
“I see the wooden house now.” Shen Yexi only spoke shortly to the walkie-talkie. Jiang Hu’s heart nearly stopped beating for a few seconds. He asked softly, “How is the situation outside? Can you see the person inside?”
“It looks fine. The door and windows are shut tightly. The curtains are drawn, so we can’t see the situation inside.” Shen Yexi stopped. He was very prudent too. The walkie-talkie signal was not perfect, with ceaseless noise, but Shen Yexi’s voice can still be picked out barely. “I’ll get someone to probe inside first. Don’t be nervous.”
Jiang Hu was momentarily left speechless. He was confident in his perfect control of his tone and expression, but he had not expected Shen Yexi to immediately tell he was anxious within a few words. The moment he raised his eyes, he saw Ke Ruhui examining him with a small smile.
“Then, other than the child, your accomplice is inside too.” Yang Man offered a possibility. “They’d be capable of deciding the kid’s life and death, and capable of determining who went.”
“My… accomplice?” Ke Ruhui intentionally emphasized on these two words, and smiled. “Miss, all my accomplices have been caught by you.”
“Who knows how many nests a rat like you drilled through?!” Yang Man pushed Ke Ruhui further against the wall.
Jiang Hu narrowed his eyes. “Yang Man, have you heard of second-degree price discrimination?”
“Second-degree what?” Yang Man didn’t catch it clearly.
“Second-degree price discrimination refers how a company may know what are different consumers in the market, but did not know which group they belonged to. As such, they will decide on a pricing plan to automatically separate the consumers with different demands. The customers may look free, but how many they buy, and what price in which they buy them would go according to the company’s initial plan.”
Yang Man was left completely befuddled and looked at him in confusion.
Jiang Hu’s gaze remained fixed on Ke Ruhui, “And to Teacher Ke, after killing countless people with different methods and becoming someone who birthed the most serial killers, his imagination has finally dried up. So, he began his plan of the judge chatroom to let others accomplish it for him. At the same time, it satisfied his desire for control and abuse. His desire to abuse is truthfully much easier to satisfy. As long as he saw others in pain, terror and anxiety, he could gain a certain amount of thrill. I think he had already been satisfied enough earlier. Otherwise, why would he give this address to Song Xiaofeng?”
“Because with your ability, you’re absolutely capable of making Song Xiaofeng change sides,” Ke Ruhui answered for him.
“So our arrival was calculated too, to satisfy his desire for control.” Yang Man understood now. “What the fuck, did this damn deviant treat us as marionettes?”
“Every one of us are marionettes, whether by destiny…” Ke Ruhui lowered his voice that had an unspeakable seduction. “Or by our humanity.”
The walkie-talkie cackled with noise, the signal was becoming increasingly worse.
Shen Yexi’s voice came, “There’s really a child at the corner. I don’t know how he is. The technicians said… he—”
Midway through, the signal jumped, preventing Jiang Hu from hearing his words, “Yexi, slower!”
Yang Man said, “He said that if you went, he would die. If you went, if you were at the scene personally, you’ll probably be more careful than he was right now. You’ll definitely make sure that nothing was wrong before you enter. Captain Shen is different. Cap Shen is the careful type who would boldly lead in crucial times. He might kick open the door without a care before doing anything else.”
Ke Ruhui began laughing. It irritated Yang Man and she kicked his knees hard. Ke Ruhui immediately fell onto his knees with his hands cuffed behind him in a miserable state, practically trapping his laughter in his throat.
“Kick… door.” Shen Yexi’s voice came in short clips. Although he could not hear everything, Jiang Hu could guess he was saying “kick open the door”. He immediately panicked, yelling at the walkie-talkie, “Shen Yexi, fucking slow down, are you incapable of understanding human speech or do you want to die?!”
Jiang Hu had never been this blunt to Shen Yexi without a care in front of others before. Perhaps the bad signal had transmitted his tone, Shen Yexi surprisingly obediently responded with, “Slower, slower, first—” They couldn’t hear what they wanted to do first before his words were submerged in noise.
Yang Man watched his expression and continued, “Look at how panicked the woman was when she begged. She didn’t even relax when the police came. Is it because the boy may be in danger after a long time? For instance, there could be a time bomb inside?”
Yet to recover from Yang Man’s kick, Ke Ruhui curled up on the ground. But he still strived to raise his head to study Jiang Hu’s worsening face, “What? You won’t even… believe a dying mother’s words?”
“If so, why didn’t she say so when she stopped Yexi? Tell me, what crime was she about to commit being the family of a martyr?”
Ke Ruhui broke into loud laughter that left him gasping for breath. “My God, J, so you don’t believe in human nature either.”
Jiang Hu looked down at him, fingers subconsciously pinching together . At the side, Yang Man noticed it by chance. For a moment, she even worried if Jiang Hu would just suddenly strangle Ke Ruhui’s neck, and spoke up quickly to divert the topic, “But… But he said that if you went, you’d be very careful. If there’s any traps inside, if that woman lied, then, they won’t…”
“Because after he said the boy would die if I went, Yexi won’t let me go.” Jiang Hu raised his head slowly, pulling the walkie-talkie closer. “Yexi, don’t take the main entrance. If the coast is clear, smash the window and pull the curtains down. Only enter when you’ve looked and ensured that everything is fine. Don’t just rashly kick the door open. If possible, climb through the window…”
“Captain Shen, if you don’t hurry, that child will suffocate to death, you know,” Ke Ruhui suddenly raised his voice.
“Yexi, did you hear what I said?”
“First… smash, but… small… can’t enter.” Shen Yexi’s voice was choppy.
“The window’s too small, and you can’t go in? It’s fine. Since it’s a wooden house, just destroy the window, or—” Before Jiang Hu finished, he heard someone yell, “Cap Shen! The boy… any longer, he can’t…”
Jiang Hu stopped for a moment before he spoke rapidly, voice unusually stern, “Can you see if there’s anything from the window?”
Shen Yexi probably could only hear choppy voices too. Shen Yexi cursed before he asked, “What… you say?”
Jiang Hu’s palms were soaked in sweat. “I said, look—”
“Cap, the entrance… light… stopped flickering!” This was another voice.
Jiang Hu relaxed slightly, and realized his fears were groundless. Shen Yexi had far more experience in fieldwork than him. Although he at times gave too much of his utmost when he panicked, he was still experienced by now after all. Even if he acted like his life depended on it, it was done with skill too.
The walkie-talkie was silent for a moment. Shen Yexi said, “Hear…”
After the single word, the signal disappeared completely.
The sweat in Jiang Hu’s palms nearly made him drop the walkie-talkie. Concern leads to panic, concern leads to panic… he forced himself to calm down, but his gaze inadvertently met Ke Ruhui’s.
Ke Ruhui’s expression was very odd. The face he donned as he looked at him shockingly held some pity.
Jiang Hu did not bat an eye. But Ke Ruhui sighed. “J, you always behave as though you believe in love and relationships, that you trust in people. But in reality, you don’t trust anyone.”
Jiang Hu did not speak.
Ke Ruhui continued, “Those warmth and kindness you have are just dust on your exterior, gone with just a blow of air. In life and death situations, you would still similarly refuse to trust anybody, obstinately clinging to your own logic and deductions regarding everyone’s minds.”
“Don’t tell me I should trust you?” The noise in the receiver had distressed him, giving him a foreboding feeling. Jiang Hu pulled off the walkie-talkie, and threw it aside.
“In reality, you’re agreeing with my hypothesis.” Ke Ruhui sighed but did not get up. He simply leaned against the wall with his bloodied body covered in dust. “Why is it so difficult to make you admit it?”
Yang Man turned cold. “Shut the fuck up.”
“Yang Man, when you were in your teens, were there any flaws in your appearance?”
Yang Man had not expected the topic to shift to her. Ke Ruhui slowly closed his eyes as if to rest, “You always somewhat intentionally hid the femininity in your personality, and worked with the roughness of a man. Yet, you expend much effort in your make-up, and pay much attention to maintaining the definition of feminine beauty on the outside. On one hand, you strive to make yourself seem like you fit the modern beauty standard, but on the other hand, you exhibits indifference to your gender and valiance that distinguishes yourself from the rest.”
“You yearn for the life of a normal woman, but you feel a faint sense of inferiority, believing yourself to be an unlikable girl. You do all you can to behave like a man, to express indifference to women’s vanity.” Ke Ruhui’s lips curve into a small smile. “But from how I see it, you look very lovely right now. They say that you have a happy family, so the reason for your low self-esteem… could it be due to an acne problem or weight issues during puberty? Even until now, it remains… You have extremely strong self-respect and vanity, and even slight perfectionistic tendencies. The more you care about something, the more you act indifferent…”
Yang Man looked like she wanted to trample on his back but Jiang Hu caught her by her wrist and pulled her behind him. “Just treat everything he says as hogwash.”
But Yang Man could not treat it as hogwash, because what Ke Ruhui said was true.
Ke Ruhui spoke quietly, “This is why you’re not able to understand people like us. We’re born with the ability to read minds, capable of seeing through everything in a short amount of time. We see the filth, the ugliness behind the bright pleasantness, and the hidden thoughts that cannot see the light of the world—it is because we see everything that we know what the essence of humans is.”
“Back to your theory of selfishness and slaughter again?” Jiang Hu laughed coldly.
“You’re clearly the same as me.” Ke Ruhui looked at him with a smile. “Otherwise, why did you stop Captain Shen from saving that child with everything you have? And ignore the plea of that pitiful woman?”
This time, Jiang Hu could not treat his words as nonsense, because what Ke Ruhui said… was still true.
Ke Ruhui strained to raise his head at the wall clock. “Why haven’t Captain Shen and the others kicked open the window? Though, after such a long time, that child would have already died from suffocation. Unfortunately, I picked a child with asthma.”
This time, Jiang Hu’s face did pale completely, even the blood on his lips had receded. “You…” He wanted to talk, but his throat all the way to his lips were dry to the extreme.
“The flickering entrance light they saw was in fact a switch. Only when the door has been forcefully damaged, will the switch be turned off. And what it does when it’s turned off is that… when the weight of an adult lands on the floorboards, the bomb wouldn’t be set off.” Ke Ruhui broke into loud laughter. “J, you lost.”
As if to prove his words, there came a noise loud enough that left even the grounds underneath them quaking.
All of Jiang Hu’s blood was frozen as he stood there in place. In that moment, countless thoughts flashed past his mind, leaving him more and more powerless. Finally, only a desolate nothingness was left.
Yang Man shoved him away with reddened eyes, jumping Ke Ruhui. Knocked back two steps, Jiang Hu hit the wall at the side. But he felt none of the pain.
Yang Man looked like she wanted to beat him within an inch of his life, but Ke Ruhui broke into insane laughter as if he did not feel the pain. “J! You lost, you lost to your suspicion and distrust! You don’t believe in demons? But demons were already in your heart! You didn’t believe in Song Xiaofeng, so your colleague avoided danger, so of course you’ll distrust this completely ordinary woman even more! Haha… Cough cough cough cough… That is the final present from me, my darling…”
Jiang Hu’s vision was red and slightly dizzy, he took two steps to the door. By the time Yang Man noticed and yelled in alarm, he had already shoved away everyone in his way without a care, dashing outside as if he had gone crazy. He thought, he had already heard the sudden crumbling of the entire world.
The sky outside had already darkened. The night winds rose, blowing chills into his entire soul.
Someone kept speaking to him. Different hands reached to stop him. But the violence in this gentle and refined man had been completely let loose. His gaze was dilated, but his actions remained extremely ruthless. Even Yang Man who abandoned the half-dead Ke Ruhui to chase after him nearly had her wrists broken by him in an unguarded moment.
“Jiang Hu!” She began to scream, but that person could not hear.
Women’s screams and cries, men’s yells and growls, and that lunatic’s hysterical laughter, he could hear none of them.
Suddenly, someone threw themselves over, grabbing his waist and twisting his arm behind him. Jiang Hu reflexively thrusted his knee upwards. The person avoided it nimbly, and pinned his legs down. The man yelled, “The hell, where were you kicking? If it gets damaged, you wanna be in a sexless marriage for the rest of your life?”
As though someone had pressed Jiang Hu’s stop button, he froze on the spot. That familiar pair of warm hands were gentle on his back, stroking him in reassurance .
Jiang Hu, “…Yexi?”
He turned his head but found his vision an indistinct blur that left him unable to see anything. He blinked furiously, warm liquid spilling from his eyes to stream down his cheeks to his chin. The man embracing him was in an utterly miserable state: covered in grime, with a long wound streaked across his cheek.
Shen Yexi was shell-shocked, roughly wiping his hand clean on Jiang Hu’s clothes before carefully wiping away his tears. “This… this… what happened here?”
The man was at a complete loss, and just continued patting Jiang Hu’s back. “You… You… oh? Scatterbrain Hu, don’t, don’t be like this. What happened? Who pissed you off?”
He turned to look at Yang Man, who was similarly weeping. “I said…”
“Cap Shen… Head, we thought you… thought you…”
“You thought what?” Shen Yexi was confused before he immediately realized, and broke into laughter. “You got a scare from the explosion, right?”
“What the fuck, you’re laughing?! If you laugh anymore, I’ll fucking… I’ll strangle you to death…” Yang Man’s make-up was already ruined from her tears. “That deviant said you’re dead if you enter from the window. He said…”
“We didn’t enter from the window,” Shen Yexi said. “We didn’t have any equipment at hand, and the kid’s face was becoming purple. If we took the time to find one, he’ll have long gone to the afterlife. The light at the entrance was a small light, and might even be a LED light. Since his mother knew that he was in the wooden house, Ke Ruhui must have tied him up in front of her. If he was in real danger, she won’t have kept silent about it. And since the kid was so near the door, if there was really a bomb, it’s not impossible for us to get him out before it sets off. In any case, taking a risk is a much better choice than watching him die of suffocation…”
Midway through, an understanding seemed to have dawned on Shen Yexi. He gave Jiang Hu a particularly dirty smile. “Then… could it be that your tears are because of me…”
Jiang Hu finally recovered from the waves of relief and anguish, to see Shen Yexi exposing eight tiny white teeth in a grin. He nearly burst his top right there. He shoved him aside, only to realize that his legs were slightly wobbly.
Shen Yexi was shameless beyond belief. “Hehe, that makes me feel so embarrassed.”
The dumbfounded audience instinctively decided to continue doing what they were doing.
Yang Man did not give up. “Then, what was with that explosion sound earlier?!”
“I don’t even know what that’s all about.” Shen Yexi frowned. “Nothing happened after we kicked the door open, so I carried the kid out. Then, he… Mm, that’s him!”
Pointing at a youth being carried away on a stretcher, Shen Yexi felt both saddened and angry. “He’s new, and didn’t look where he was going. When we told him to fall behind, he stepped on god-knew-what at the entrance. Then, I heard something ring. Something felt wrong, so I got them to get down on the ground. Luckily, while the brat was a little stupid, he had a good reaction time, so only the skin on his back burnt. Otherwise, he would have lost a limb or two at the very least.”
Jiang Hu did not miss a single word, but when he was done, he immediately turned to leave wordlessly.
“Hey!” Shen Yexi rushed to catch up. “Aiyo, come on, didn’t you just waste a couple of tears on me? It’s not like you lost a body part. Look at how sour you look…”
Yep, ignoring you. I’m just sour, so what.
“I say, Scatterbrain Hu, we’re all adults here, hey, don’t be like this…”
He continued the cold treatment.
“Big bro… Big bro Jiang… Sweetheart Jiang? Dear wife? Wait for me, I’m injured here…”
With still glistening eyes, Jiang Hu caught a glimpse of Ke Ruhui being escorted into the police car. That person looked in his direction too, but the distance prevented him from seeing his expression clearly. Still, he did not want to care anymore.
He had guarded the door to Hell, and remained a bystander. The passion in his blood had long dried. But that was fine. That person was still there, close by and only an arm’s distance away. Reminding him that even if this world had chilly winds, storms and fire, it still had hope and aspirations.
A month later, Ke Ruhui was executed by shooting his head.
A demon had died. But thousands of demons were still slumbering amongst humans, awakening in their hearts at any moment.
The human heart was a black box whose content no one could be definitively sure of. In a time of peace and prosperity, perhaps, it would quietly wiggle in the dark, absorbing energy from every vile thought that existed to slowly gain a form and break out of its chains. In places that the sun could not reach, sordid filth grew all over.
But even so, we were still living under the sunlight.
 关心则乱: from 无欲则刚，关心则乱, which describes how someone without desires would remain unmoved, while someone who cares for others or things would be easily affected emotionally.
 守活寡: usually refers to a wife who is unable to perform duties or responsibilities usually expected of them, for instance, if the husband is away for a long time. Here, in context, it clearly refers to being unable to have sex.