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A Lunatic Says He Loves Me

A Lunatic Says He Loves Me: Chapter 19

Chapter 19: Eighteen Levels of Hell 2

Yuan Fei dialed Ji Yan’s number, and a mechanical female voice came through, “The number you have dialed is powered off.” He put it on speakerphone, and when Ling Feng heard it, his face turned green. “Let’s go back to the bureau and wait for the autopsy report.”

Han Rong’s global travel plan was only less than one-fifth complete when he suddenly got the flu and had to return to the country early. Feeling dizzy and weak all over, he nestled in Ji Yan’s arms and fell asleep, drifting into a dream.

It was a vast palace with winding corridors. Each level had many rooms, with one nearby door slightly ajar. Han Rong reached out and pushed it open, finding a boy of about five or six playing with model warships inside. He pushed open another door to reveal an eleven or twelve-year-old boy holding a toy gun shooting at a target on the wall. The remaining doors were all locked. He walked for a long time before finding a door he could push open.

A tantalizing aroma wafted out, and smoke sizzled from the pot. “Han Rong” was covered in blood, methodically stuffing an indistinct figure into the oil pot. He turned his head, gave a faint smile to Han Rong standing at the door, and said, “Few are those who have seen the light of day. Many are those who have not. The transformation between good and evil knows no bounds…”

Han Rong’s body jerked, and he woke up abruptly. Ji Yan gently patted his back and asked, “Having a nightmare?”

Han Rong still held his phone, with the Jinjiang app open, showing the latest chapter of “Blind Detective” – “Fried Human Stick.” “Looks like I’ll have to read fewer hardcore novels in the future,” he chuckled, changing the subject.

Not long after they passed through customs, Ling Feng received a message and immediately drove to the airport to pick the two of them up. Ding Ding sat in the passenger seat and briefed them on the case.

“The first victim had their tongue pulled out. The second victim had all ten fingers cut off, the third victim was strangled to a tree. The fourth victim was stabbed multiple times. The fifth victim was fried alive at home. We investigated their social connections, and these five people didn’t know each other.”

Ling Feng spoke up, “Although their victim profiles are different, my intuition tells me it’s the same person responsible.”

Han Rong, feeling a bit airsick, leaned against Ji Yan’s shoulder and spoke wearily, “The first victim was a fraudster, the second a matchmaker, the third a gossip, the fourth a butcher, and the fifth a client.”

Ling Feng glanced at Ji Yan in the rearview mirror and asked colloquially, “Is he crazy now?”

Ji Yan shook his head. Ling Feng continued to ask in a subdued tone, “Then how did he guess so accurately?”

“Officer Ling, are you trying to make me report you for inappropriate conduct with my boyfriend in front of me?” Han Rong lazily interjected, his severe cold making his voice husky and sexy.

Ling Feng gave him a sidelong glance. “I’m a straight shooter, OK? You guessed the identities of all five victims. Did you deduce this from psychological autopsies?”

Han Rong neither confirmed nor denied, but asked, “Do you know about the Eighteen Levels of Hell?”

Ding Ding: “Journey to the West?”

Ling Feng: “In Buddhism, it’s believed that souls undergo judgment after death. Yama will judge based on the person’s deeds whether they are reincarnated or fall into hell. The ‘Eighteen Layers of Hell Sutra’ details the various punishments.”

Ding Ding asked, “What’s the connection between the Eighteen Levels of Hell and these murders?”

Han Rong explained, “Those who lie in life will suffer from having their tongues pulled out in hell. That’s why the first fraudster’s tongue was removed by the killer; those who incite others to remarry in life will suffer from having their fingers cut off in hell. That’s why the second matchmaker’s fingers were cut off by the killer; those who sow discord among family and friends in life will be hanged in hell. That’s why the third gossip was hanged; those who slaughter livestock in life will be hacked into pieces on a mountain of knives in hell. That’s why the fourth butcher was stabbed to death; those who engage in prostitution in life will be fried in oil in hell. That’s why the fifth client was fried to death. Officer Ling, please take me to the crime scene first.”

“Which one are you going to?”

“The nearest one.”

Ling Feng turned the car around and headed towards Fanshi Street. Ding Ding continued to read the files, “The deceased, Pang Dahai, 54 years old, was a single, unmarried male. On October 26th, the property management found the body when they came to collect the water and electricity fees.” He put down the documents, paused for a moment, and said, “Suspicious items have all been moved to the forensic science department, and the test results haven’t come out yet. Going to the crime scene now wouldn’t be very useful.”

Yuan Fei interjected, “Because the scene has already been pretty much destroyed!”

Han Rong looked out the window. “If you were cautious enough, I wouldn’t need to be here.”

Ding Ding furrowed his brow. “Are you mocking us for being useless?”

Han Rong smiled but didn’t answer.

Yuan Fei nervously watched Ding Ding, afraid he might explode again, but to his surprise, Ding Ding remained silent, holding back his anger. After a while, he spoke up, “We’re here.”

Yuan Fei got out of the car and leaned in beside him, whispering, “You scared me. I thought you were going to hit him!”

“He’s not wrong,” Ding Ding’s expression was grim, his eyebrows furrowed tightly. He headed straight upstairs. “The killer is still at large, and it’s indeed our incompetence.” He opened the door and led Han Rong into the kitchen, pointing to the area marked with white lines on the floor. “There was a wok here, taken away by our colleagues in forensics. Pang Dahai died in that wok. What are you doing?”

Han Rong walked into the marked area and sat down. It seemed as if he was inside a wok, leaning back with his head slightly tilted upwards.

“Han Ge, what are you doing? Oh, I see. You’re simulating the scene of the crime, right?”

Han Rong pointed to the ceiling. “What’s this?”

Yuan Fei, Ding Ding, and Ling Feng all leaned in to look up.

A bizarre symbol was drawn in blood on the ceiling.

Yuan Fei answered, “It’s a symbol!”

Ding Ding stared at it for a while and said, “This symbol is a bit strange, different from the Taoist symbols commonly seen.”

Yuan Fei explained, “There are many Taoist sects, and their symbols vary widely. It’s not surprising.”

“No,” Ding Ding took a photo with his phone, zoomed in on the picture, and pointed to the first part of the symbol, “This is a swastika.”

Yuan Fei scratched his head. “Right. That’s strange. The swastika is a Buddhist symbol. I wonder what this symbol is used for.”

Han Rong said, “Since you police officers have a wide network, can you find any hermits or experts to help decipher it?”

Ding Ding rolled his eyes. “I’m an atheist.”

Yuan Fei scratched his face. “I’m a Christian.”

Ling Feng spoke up, “I think there’s someone who can help.”

Ling Feng led them to a temple at a tourist attraction, and confidently walked in through a side door. After passing through several corridors, they arrived at a secluded courtyard.

With a creak, the wooden door opened, and a handsome monk stepped out. His face looked very young, without any wrinkles, yet his temperament was unique, a kind of tranquility refined by the passage of time, making it impossible to guess his actual age. He smiled faintly and said, “Yin Tong, it’s been a few days. You seem to be a bit brighter, as if you’re shining brighter than the sun.”

Ling Feng: “Master, good to see you.”

“Master?!” Ding Ding and Yuan Fei’s eyes nearly popped out of their heads. Ding Ding’s bewildered gaze oscillated between the monk and Ling Feng, and when he saw their matching couple bald heads, he inexplicably believed it.

The monk clasped his hands together and nodded slightly towards Han Rong and the others. “Amitabha. The poor monk’s Dharma name is He Chen. Truth be told, this monkey has been away from the monastery for over ten years, and his actions have nothing to do with the poor monk.”

Ding Ding’s expression suddenly turned ugly, like he was constipated.

Yuan Fei chuckled nervously, “The master’s personality is a bit… unique.”

Cheeky, especially cheeky!

“Master, I’m not in trouble, I just have some issues with my case that I need to consult you about.” Ling Feng looked somewhat helpless.

“You should’ve said so earlier. I thought it was another victim beaten up by you coming to ask for medical expenses.” He Chen pushed the door open, his smile friendly. “Please come in, everyone.”

Han Rong followed inside and remarked, “Officer Ling, your master looks quite young.”

Ling Feng rubbed his bald head. “In actual age, he could be your grandfather!”

“I didn’t know Officer Ling was a Buddhist. Have you done a lot of unscrupulous deeds?” Han Rong teased.

Ling Feng was choked by him, “Would I dare to worship Buddha if I did? Aren’t you afraid of divine retribution?”

“It’s precisely because of committing unscrupulous deeds that one seeks divine protection.” A sudden flash of insight crossed Han Rong’s mind, followed by a question, “Did the five victims have any religious beliefs?”

Ding Ding replied, “They all believed in Buddhism.”

Han Rong nodded in understanding. Ling Feng showed He Chen the photo on his phone. “Master, do you know what this symbol is?”

He Chen squinted and examined it for a while before saying, “This is a talisman from Tantric Buddhism, used to close the gates of the underworld.”

Ling Feng asked, “If this talisman was left by the killer, why would he want to close the gates?”

Yuan Fei said, “My grandma told me that after people die, the messengers of the underworld come to collect their souls. By closing the gates, does the killer not want these people’s souls to go to the underworld? Considering the Eighteen Levels of Hell, is the killer trying to prevent them from facing judgment in the underworld?”

Ding Ding said grimly, “Is he trying to play judge himself? Judging the sins of the world? He’s gone mad!”

Han Rong asked, “So you’re saying the killer is a disciple of a certain sect of Tantric Buddhism?”

He Chen replied, “It’s also possible that someone saw a book recording this talisman. They might have gone crazy for a while.”

“I’m more inclined to believe the master’s speculation. After all, monks are compassionate.” Han Rong smiled and asked, “So, Master, do you know the name of this book?”

“If the humble monk remembers correctly, it should be the 《Rebirth Records》.”

“Thank you, Master.”

“We’ll take our leave, Master!” Ling Feng hurriedly left, and He Chen shouted vigorously behind him, “The rabbit offspring have finished eating bamboo shoots. Have your aunt send another package over another day!”

“Got it!” Ling Feng turned back and ordered, “Yuan Fei, immediately check the borrowing list for the 《Rebirth Records》 in all the libraries in Xuezhou City. Ding Ding, continue investigating the victims’ social relationships, ask the building management in the neighborhood, as well as their neighbors, family, and friends, to see if they’ve met anyone or been to any places.”

Han Rong added, “Since all five victims believed in Buddhism, you can check if they attended the same temple fair or participated in the same Buddhist group. Oh, Officer Ling, how long has it been since you last read Adu Shisan’s new work?”

“I’ve been busy with work. When would I have time to read?”

“In that case, you can take a look at his new work. The plot is very exciting and almost identical to these five cases.” He opened the Jinjiang app and handed the phone to Ling Feng.

“The killer recites a passage from the ‘Eighteen Levels of Hell Sutra’ before killing, then sends them to hell. Of course, there’s no mention of the talisman in the text.”

As Ling Feng read the novel, his expression gradually became serious.

“I don’t know if it’s his deranged readers imitating his plot to commit crimes or something else. But my intuition tells me you should go to Jinjiang Headquarters and ask their CEO to cooperate with the investigation. Provide the personal information of the author, Adu Shisan. Anyway, writing to this extent is abnormal.”

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