Before dawn, Ling Shu took the earliest train to Hangzhou.
The railway from Shanghai to Hangzhou was built in the late Qing Dynasty and is still in use today, taking about five hours for a one-way trip.
When Ling Shu arrived in Hangzhou, it was almost noon. Instead of rushing to have lunch, he went to a bookstore first.
The bookstore was located by the West Lake, with former Qing officials' mansions on both sides.
After the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the country went through turbulent times, and the wealthy could not stay wealthy forever. The mansions changed hands several times, and one of them was turned into a bookstore, which was the Mingde Bookstore that Ling Shu came to find.
It was midday, and there weren't many people around. Ling Shu grabbed a small stool and sat in front of the bookshelves, randomly picking up a book to read.
Not many people can afford to buy books these days, and there are countless young people like him who spend their time in bookstores reading for free.
The owner is used to it and doesn't bother chasing them away. If Ling Shu could buy one or two books before leaving, it would be considered generous.
"Wait," Yue Dingtang interrupted him with a raised hand.
"Is this the bookstore where Chen Youhua used to frequent?" he asked.
"Yes, I want to wait there and see if I can catch Chen Youhua," Ling Shu replied.
Among the two assassination targets that He You'an gave to Jiang He, one was the tailor Xiao Jun, who was already dead, and the other was the newspaper employee Chen Youhua, who had mysteriously disappeared after escaping the pursuit.
A person who had just escaped from danger would naturally run as far away as possible, but Chen Youhua appeared in a bookstore in Hangzhou, which was unusual enough, let alone the fact that he appeared at the same time as He You'an.
When coincidences pile up, they cease to be coincidences.
By following the trail of Chen Youhua, they might be able to uncover the strange circumstances surrounding He You'an.
However, Yue Dingtang's focus was not on that. Instead, he asked, "How did you know about that bookstore?"
Ling Shu blinked innocently. "I asked Cheng Si."
Yue Dingtang replied, "Cheng Si is just a small police officer in Jiangwan District. How could he have any influence in the Hangzhou Police Department?"
Ling Shu continued to make up excuses. "Oh, I must have remembered wrong. I asked my brother-in-law to check."
Yue Dingtang crossed his arms and watched him continue to talk nonsense. After Chen Youhua disappeared, he was already a dead man. It was impossible for him to continue using the identity of Chen Youhua, so relying on the power of the white path was definitely not feasible.
"Jiang He found it for you," Ling Shu laughed. "It seems like it really was him. I asked a lot of people for help, and I don't even remember who it was!"
Yue Dingtang said, "Do you think your life is too long and want to try to make it shorter?"
"Old Yue, you can't blame me for this. Jiang He sent someone to actively send the news on Mingde Bookstore. He knew I was investigating He You'an's affairs. In my opinion, he also wants to know what role He You'an plays in these things. So Jiang He is not only helping me, but also helping himself," Ling Shu explained.
Yue Dingtang said, "If Lu Tongcang wants to kill him, he will pay attention to everyone around him. You saved his life, and now you are on Lu Tongcang's radar. If you continue to associate with him, Lu Tongcang will take care of both of you."
Ling Shu smiled apologetically, "Don't worry, I won't actively seek him out anymore. I'll just hang out with you, is that okay?"
The old housekeeper came over with a fruit plate and noticed the tense atmosphere around Yue Dingtang.
He couldn't help but interject in a gentle voice, "Take it easy, don't scare the child."
Yue Dingtang remained silent. Did Uncle Zhou forget that this person was his classmate?
Ling Shu took the fruit plate with both hands and said, "Thank you, Uncle Zhou!"
The old housekeeper said, "You caught a cold, don't eat too much. Before you go to bed, I'll bring you some medicinal tea. Make sure you finish it before sleeping."
Ling Shu obediently agreed. Yue Dingtang felt powerless and let out a deep sigh. He wondered what Uncle Zhou would think if he saw the ruthless decisiveness of the person who had just shot someone.
The old housekeeper quickly left, and Yue Dingtang no longer had the desire to interrogate him.
"Please continue," Yue Dingtang said.
Ling Shu nodded and asked, "Where did I leave off?"
"You were waiting for Chen Youhua at the bookstore," Yue Dingtang replied.
Ling Shu slapped his thigh and exclaimed, "Yes! The bookstore is called Mingde Bookstore, and the decor is quite nice with an antique feel. I was browsing books there for a while and thought I might have annoyed the owner, so I randomly grabbed a slightly cheaper book and paid for it. The owner was so happy and even gave me a pot of tea. By the way, can I expense that book on the company account? Okay, okay, I know, I'll cover it myself. Don't look at me like that!
"I had already planned that if I couldn't find him today, I would stake out the area tomorrow. I knew I would eventually find Chen Youhua. But luck was on my side today. Around 3 pm, Chen Youhua appeared," said Ling Shu.
"When Jiang He took on the task, he naturally had a portrait. He gave me the portrait, but the Chen Youhua I saw was quite different from the portrait. Only the description of his build and his eyes were accurate. At the time, I couldn't be sure it was him," Ling Shu continued.
"After he circled the bookstore, he headed straight for the back door. I circled around to the front and followed him. I watched as he went to West Lake and sat there for a while before going to off for dinner," Ling Shu recounted.
It was only at this point that Yue Dingtang asked, "Just for dinner?"
Ling Shu replied, "Just for dinner."
Yue Dingtang then asked, "But isn't 3 pm too early for dinner?" Ling Shu said, "But he really ordered a table full of dishes."
Yue Dingtang asked, "Did he finish eating?"
Ling Shu replied, "He didn't finish, he left halfway through."
Yue Dingtang said, "To prevent being followed and to deceive others."
Ling Shu nodded, "Also to eliminate suspicion from others. If I hadn't been sure that he was Chen Youhua, I would have given up and wouldn't have followed him. But I followed him all the way to Guanyin Pond and witnessed a shocking secret. Can you guess what I saw?"
Yue Dingtang said, "Don't keep me in suspense."
Ling Shu said, "I saw someone trying to kill him."
Yue Dingtang asked, "Was it someone sent by Jiang He?"
Ling Shu replied, "It shouldn't be. After Jiang He's mission failed, they returned the money. And as for the deal with Shen Shiqi, it's already over. He doesn't like being used by others, so he wouldn't deceive me in this matter."
Yue Dingtang said casually, "You seem to understand him well."
Ling Shu asked, "Is that a compliment?"
"What do you think?" Yue Dingtang replied.
Ling Shu said confidently, "Of course it is. You're asking me an obvious question."
Yue Dingtang gave up on bantering with him. "With your personality, you would have definitely tried to stop him."
Ling Shu explained, "No, Chen Youhua is very cautious. He circled around a few times to avoid being followed. I couldn't get too close to him. By the time he was attacked, I couldn't make it in time to rescue him. Chen Youhua was walking in a dark alley and the attacker was waiting there. He was killed with one strike and had no chance to fight back. I saw the attacker take a newspaper from Chen Youhua's body."
Yue Dingtang was about to ask if Ling Shu had chased after the attacker, but he heard Ling Shu speak in a calm and relaxed tone, "Then I caught up with him, took down the culprit, and got the newspaper from his hand," said Ling Shu.
Yue Dingtang: ???
He had a feeling that Ling Shu was going to cause trouble again, but since reuniting with him, he had become accustomed to these kinds of scares. It was like someone who was used to being startled awake while sleeping. At first, it might be too much for their heart to handle, but over time, they would develop a tolerance for it.
Thinking about this, Yue Dingtang furrowed his brow and asked, "What do you mean by 'took down'?"
Ling Shu replied, "It means exactly what it sounds like. As a kind and benevolent person like myself, do you think I would kill someone to cover my tracks?"
Yue Dingtang said, "...I would rather you did cover your tracks. This person was able to kill Chen Youhua, so he certainly wouldn't spare you."
Ling Shu waved his hand, "Don't worry, I promise I didn't let him see my true face. And since this person killed Chen Youhua and was knocked out by someone else, when he wakes up, won't he suspect someone else? Can't we use this to find out the truth?"
Yue Dingtang asked, "What do you want to do?"
Ling Shu replied, "We need to find a way to let He You'an know about the existence of that newspaper. If she really has a connection with Chen Youhua, she will definitely go to that bookstore. And after the killer wakes up, he will definitely take action. This newspaper is a bait, causing all parties to compete and jump out of the water one by one."
He finished speaking and placed the file bag on the table.
"This is the newspaper."
Yue Dingtang opened the file bag and pulled out the newspaper.
It was a very ordinary Lin'an Daily. The newspaper was thin and had little content, indicating that it was likely struggling to survive due to insufficient funding.
However, it had everything that a newspaper should have, including news, serialized novels, and advertisements. If the price was cheap enough, many local tea houses in Hangzhou might subscribe to it and read it aloud to their customers.
Trying to find a clue from a newspaper was like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but even harder.
"I can't see any clues in it, and I don't understand why the killer would murder Chen Youhua over this newspaper. We'll have to rely on Professor Yue to decipher it," Ling Shu yawned, feeling tired after telling the story.
Although he had glossed over the part where he had taken down the killer, the person who could cleanly and efficiently murder Chen Youhua was not someone to be trifled with.
This person couldn't go a day without causing trouble. Yue Dingtang thought that even if he were to die one day, he wouldn't be surprised. But Yue Chunxiao really liked him.
Yue Dingtang could tell that his sister really saw Ling Shu as a younger brother. She even sent him a special package from Nanjing, and didn't forget to include a gift for Ling Shu. It should be noted that Yue Chunxiao wasn't someone who would treat anyone so well just by seeing them.
It could only be said that Ling Shu had really caught the eye of his sister. And also, there was the old housekeeper, Uncle Zhou, who was in charge of everything in the Yue family. These people didn't say it out loud, but their expressions and actions had already revealed their inclinations and positions.
Before Ling Shu appeared, Yue Dingtang's life was routine and boring. He would go back and forth between school and the Yue Manor every day, and although it was stable, it was also dull.
Until Ling Shu appeared. He threw himself directly into the tumultuous cases, sometimes even pushing the limits to the point where he almost lost his life. From the high-profile case at Yuan Manor to the death threats against a female celebrity, the latter seemed insignificant but gradually revealed a deeper and larger conspiracy.
Yue Dingtang regretted agreeing to let Ling Shu step into the minefield without knowing the depth of the water behind He You'an.
"This looks like an ordinary newspaper, unless..." Yue Dingtang paused.
"Hmm?" Ling Shu, half asleep, reluctantly responded.
Yue Dingtang continued, "There's a corresponding codebook."
"Hmm..." Ling Shu felt like a limp noodle and just wanted to go to sleep.
Yue Dingtang's voice was like a lullaby, sometimes distant and sometimes close.
"I'll send the newspaper to He You'an. If she really has something to do with Chen Youhua, the password book might be with her..."
He vaguely remembered Yue Dingtang saying this, as if talking to himself.
A cold breeze brushed against his forehead, and then Ling Shu knew nothing else.