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Chapter 204: 204
After getting into the car, Xiaotao radioed Yuanchao and asked him to join us . We stopped at that stretch of the highway, got down from the car and went on foot .
The woods were secluded and quiet at night, and we couldn’t use flashlights because that might expose us . Bingxin tightly held onto my arm while my other hand was clasped with Xiaotao's . I looked around with my Cave Vision and continued sniffing the air .
When we came to a particular area, I motioned for them not to make any noise . Amidst the silence came the cry of a girl, prompting us to walk in that direction .
Fog rose from the forest floor which was unusual because it was winter .
Bingxin whispered, "Song Yang-gege, could this place be haunted?"
I assured her . “It’s okay . I've seen so many ghosts . "
Hearing this, Bingxin clung harder to my arm . Right then, Xiaotao pointed and said, "Look!"
There was a red Santana parked in the clearing, and the license plate number was the same one the owner had reported . Zhang Qiang was very careful indeed, going so far as to drive into the woods instead of leaving the car on the side of the road . There were scratches on the paint, presumably made by branches in the woods .
The car door was open and the seat was still warm, indicating that they had just left . Perhaps the hostage was still alive!
When I emerged from the car, I caught a glimpse of a woman dressed in red in the rearview mirror . Her long hair draped over her clothes, which seemed to be an ancient red wedding dress . But as soon as I turned around, she disappeared .
Was the disfigured Qing Dynasty girl really wandering about here? If the story was true, then she must have great resentment . It wouldn’t come as a surprise if she turned into an evil spirit after death .
Ghosts were merely remnants of spiritual energy in the world . They had no self-awareness, but they were greatly territorial and didn’t like being disturbed .
Xiaotao asked me if I had seen something, to which I replied vaguely . "It's nothing . Let’s continue looking for them!"
I walked hand in hand with Bingxin on my left and Xiaotao on my right, though there wasn’t any significance in that . I was afraid we would get separated since the fog had thickened .
As we made our way through the dense white fog, I suddenly felt a cool draft on my neck, as if someone was breathing against it . But it could’ve also been the wind . In this sort of environment, any small detail might be subjectively magnified .
Bingxin shouted in horror . "Song Yang-gege, I think someone’s following us!"
"Just keep walking . Don't be afraid, it can't do anything to you," I assured her .
Bingxin shivered uncontrollably . "Is this ‘thing’ a person or a ghost?"
I silently recited the Song family mantra my grandfather taught me, and the feeling of being followed gradually dissipated . I suddenly wondered why this ghost had wandered out . Was it because it had been affected by the yang energy of the living?
Zhang Qiang was a killer, so he carried a strong murderous aura . At the same time, ghosts preyed on the weak but feared the strong . Perhaps it was afraid of Zhang Qiang and targeted us instead .
During the upcoming New Year holiday, I planned to read up on the other methods of exorcism handed down from my ancestors . In the past, I had regarded these as feudal superstitions, so I merely skimmed through them . Now, I understood that there were certain things in this world that couldn’t be explained by science . If ghosts truly existed, then a coroner was definitely one of the professions most likely to bump into one .
Faint feminine laughter suddenly echoed through the woods . "You can't kill me! I’m your shadow, your soul . You’ll never get rid of me, you ugly bitch!" the woman bitterly spat, her voice shrill .
Sun Bingxin trembled with fear and clutched my arm tightly . I motioned for them not to talk .
Then came Li Qin's voice . She screamed, "Darling, kill her now! I can't take it anymore!"
The shrill voice burst out in scornful laughter . "You’ve killed me four times now . Has it worked? You’re the one who deserves to die the most . You’re worthless, pathetic and ignoble . You don’t deserve to live in this world and you’re unworthy of love . ”
Li Qin screamed, "That’s enough! Shut up!"
At this point, Zhang Qiang’s voice sounded as he spoke in a vicious tone . "You fucking bitch! Don't insult my wife . She will always be the most beautiful woman in my eyes . "
Sardonic laughter ensued . "You don’t even know how many men have slept with the apple of your eye . Even a public toilet is cleaner than her . Only a loser like you would regard her as treasure . "
"Shut up!" Zhang Qiang roar was followed by the sound of a loud blow, as if someone had been slapped in the face .
"Darling, why did you hit me?" Li Qin cried weakly .
Zhang Qiang apologetically replied, "I'm sorry . I was hitting that awful woman . I'll kill her now!"
In that instant, I realized that the woman was actually Li Qin's other personality . Her personalities were constantly switching back and forth, so she was mocking herself .
Of course, it was impossible for Zhang Qiang to kill this other personality because it was part of Li Qin . The other personality mentioned that they had killed her four times . That is to say, Zhang Qiang had dressed the women to resemble Li Qin in her younger days and murdered them in front of her to symbolize killing off the other personality, so Li Qin’s mental state could remain stable for a period of time .
All the victims were Li Qin's other personality’s scapegoat!
I didn't expect this at all! I thought he had murdered them to appease his wife's jealousy .
Xiaotao rushed into the scene and pulled out her gun . "Police! Freeze!"
Zhang Qiang shouted, "Don't come any closer, or I'll kill her!"
Bingxin and I followed closely . Zhang Qiang held a knife against the hostage’s neck . The girl was still disorientated . She wore a flowing red dress, her skin pale from the cold .
Li Qin hid behind Zhang Qiang and peeked at us with a panicked look in her eyes .
Xiaotao only made our presence known for lack of a better option . If she didn’t show up, the hostage might be killed . She made an accurate judgement of the situation .
Zhang Qiang grinned sinisterly at me . "I didn't think we'd meet again . It looks like the experts they sent this time aren’t idiots . It only took you a few days to uncover me . "
I asked, "Why use such an extreme method instead of sending her to treatment if she’s ill?"
Zhang Qiang shouted hoarsely, "Are there any known cases of dual personalities being cured? I can only use this method because I love my wife!"
Li Qin suddenly wrapped her hands around her head and screamed, "Darling, what are you talking about? I'm not ill! I'm not ill!"
Zhang Qiang turned around and nervously comforted her, "No, I'm not talking about you . I’m talking about them . "
Right then, Zhang Qiang realized that he had revealed a flaw and immediately threatened, "Put down the gun or I’ll kill her . She’s the mayor’s daughter . I know you won’t let her die . "
"Why do you know her identity?"
"Qinglian County is full of gossip . Who doesn’t know this?”
As Xiaotao lowered her gun, Zhang Qiang began to push his luck by making conditions . "Move three kilometers away from here immediately . Don't follow me, or I’ll kill the hostage!"
Xiaotao coldly cautioned, "If that knife falls on her neck, you’ll no longer have a bargaining chip!"
Zhang Qiang laughed . "My life is worth nothing, but I know that you’ll have to face the consequences if she dies . "
Xiaotao sniffed contemptuously, "You small county fools have never seen the world . The life of a county mayor’s illegitimate daughter isn’t going to stop us from solving a crime . I can honestly tell you that there are only two roads ahead of you . Kill the hostage and be shot by me . Your wife will be arrested . Or surrender and we’ll show leniency . "
Zhang Qiang scoffed . "You think I believe that you’ll show leniency?! I killed four people . I know they’ll execute me!"
I corrected him . "Five!"
He laughed, "Your investigation is very thorough . Yes, I killed Cao Dazhuang as well!"