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Chapter 1: Missing Neighbor

Am I still dreaming…? He Juan wondered as his eyes took in the sea of crimson in front of him.

Blood. There was blood everywhere on the hallway in front of He Juan's door. The metallic stench that flooded his nose was so overpowering that he felt another wave of nausea churning his gut, a different kind than the hungover he was stewing in right now.

"Mr. He?" The gruff voice snapped He Juan out of his reverie. He looked up to see the beefy middle aged man — who had pounded on his door for ten minutes straight earlier — flashing a police badge he had only ever seen on TV before. "We are from the Violent Crime Investigation Unit in Yuyang City Bureau. Can we ask you a few questions?"

Still disoriented, He Juan opened the door wider to let the three police officers inside. They crowded into He Juan's living room, which looked even more cramped with many unopened boxes strewn all over the floor. He Juan grimaced inwardly. Now he regretted that he didn't unpack right after he moved in.

"Excuse me." The small mirror on the hallway reflected He Juan's disheveled state back to him and he almost got a heart attack. Mustering the most polite smile he could in such a situation, he pointed at his own bedroom. "Can you give me a few minutes to freshen up? Thank you."

He maintained the smile on his face until the door closed behind him. In an instant, He Juan held his forehead and heaved out a heavy sigh. Goodness… his hangover was too heavy to deal with something like this only half past six in the morning — not that he could bring himself to regret the decision of being wasted. He really needed it yesterday. However, exactly what had happened out there…?

No time left to waste, He Juan hastily changed out of his wrinkled clothes, splashed some water onto his face, brushed his teeth and re-did his loose braid. His inky hair had hung over his waist, thick and silken. He deliberately left them be ever since the accident… as a remembrance, perhaps. He Juan examined himself one last time in the mirror, rearranged his bangs so that it would cover the long, horizontal scar on his forehead before exiting the room.

Fortunately, the officers were gracious — patient? Understanding? — enough to let him change. Nevertheless, He Juan didn't feel assured leaving three policemen to roam around his house, his messy belongings notwithstanding.

As expected, his worry wasn't for naught. He exited his bedroom to find that they had seized the opportunity to do some secret snooping. One of them was kneeling in front of his half opened box, one was prowling around the balcony searching God-knows-what, whilst He Juan found the other inside the common bathroom without even turning the light on.

The corner of He Juan's lips twitched. An Alpha was supposed to be territorial, especially when others were going through his belongings without permission. Yet as of now He Juan couldn't even muster the slightest will to be angry. He only felt exasperated.

He took a deep breath and cleared his throat.

The one closest to him was startled into standing. He swiveled to face He Juan, huge eyes blinking owlishly as if he hadn't just gone through someone's belongings without permission. Then, he surprised He Juan by suddenly bowing ninety degrees, flushing so red like a tomato. "Oh my God, I–I am so sorry! I don't mean to pry into your personal things, it's just that—"

He Juan interrupted him with a wave, amused. "No, it's okay, officer."

Fortunately, the box contained nothing but his winter coats. At least it would spare him the humiliation than if the box contained something else, for example his dirty laundry. He Juan shivered just from thinking about that.

The other two, upon hearing the voices in the living room, convened once again. He Juan noticed with some degree of embarrassment that it was the extremely attractive, cold officer that had gone into his bathroom. He tried to remember if he had left any dirty underwear there and drew out a blank. Heavens, why was he such a klutz?!

He Juan caught the officer's eyes and for the second time in the last half an hour, he startled at how gorgeous the man was. He had noticed this particular officer first out of the three. How could he not? Even when he was just standing there clad in a simple black sweater and dark blue jeans, his mere presence commanded attention. He looked like someone whose face ought to be displayed on huge billboards in the center of the city.

And it wasn't only his appearance. He had the most lustrous and penetrating eyes He Juan had ever seen. When he looked at you, you would feel as if you were submerged in a freezing lake in the middle of winter, so cold that it sent shivers down your spine. They were dark, but not pitch black. He Juan found a swirl of blue when the morning sun reflected on them and another rush of embarrassment coursed through him for noticing such a distinct trait from the man he had just met.

He Juan averted his gaze in lieu of sitting on the couch, effectively breaking eye contact between them.

Was it only his imagination or had this stunning-mean-intimidating officer been glaring at him from the very first second he opened the door? Was it an Alpha-to-Alpha's fight for dominance? But He Juan was not even… Well, he was indeed an Alpha but since the accident, he might as well have become a Beta…

"I apologize for having made you wait. Please sit, officers." He Juan gestured to the couch opposite him. The other two complied, except the aforementioned officer who chose to lean against the wall with his arms crossed, eyes staring out of the window with a cold expression on his face.

(Holy— he looked just like a model fresh out of a magazine photoshoot.)

"We sincerely apologize for taking your time up so early in the morning, Mr. He." The man, who had flashed his police badge earlier, said. His hair was a mess on top of his head and the dark circles below his eyes had almost reached his cheek, making He Juan wonder how many days it had been since he last slept. Oh, He Juan startled, what kind of Host was he that he even forgot to serve his guests a drink?

"No, it's fine." He Juan made a motion to the kitchen. "What would you like to drink? Water, juice, tea or coffee?"

"No, it's—"

"Juice, please."

The Shy Officer — He Juan decided to call him that after he had apologized profusely for five minutes straight — clamped his mouth shut and shrunk his neck under the glare of Panda-Eyed Officer. "But Capt, I'm really so, so thirsty…"

He Juan chuckled lightly and stood up. "Juice, then." He turned to the Stunning Officer in time to catch him avert his eyes. "What about you?"

He didn't get an answer, the man didn't even turn to regard him. Hmm... He Juan shrugged and fetched three glasses of watermelon juice. The Shy Officer instantly chugged it down and let out a satisfied sigh. "Thank you so much, Mr. He."

He Juan waved his hand in dismissal. "May I ask if someone has gotten into an accident out there, officers?"

"Yes, that's right." Panda-Eyed Officer's expression turned somber in a split second. "Let me introduce myself first, I am Li Zhi. You may call me Captain Li. These two are the members in my team, Kang Guanyu and Mu Yuze."

The Shy Officer beamed brightly. "Officer Kang Guanyu, at your service, Sir!"

He Juan nodded with a faint smile. Officer Kang had a gummy smile that could brighten the whole room, it made He Juan feel like looking at an innocent child. His gaze unknowingly drifted again to the Stunning Officer.

Mu Yuze, Mu Yuze… gentle like rain, that's a very good name.

He Juan's attention was soon drawn to the photo Captain Li slid to the table in front of him.

It was a woman, young enough to be in her 30s with long hair, fair skin — too fair in fact, it was the unhealthy color of paper that signified the woman's dislike to be under the sun — and haunting eyes. It was those eyes that jolted He Juan's memory.

Wasn't this his neighbor who slammed the door on him when he came to offer a housewarming gift? He Juan had only seen her once since then, thinking that it was better not to cause unnecessary problems with his neighbor when he had just moved in.

"Oh no," he scrunched his brows in concern. " Did something happen to her?"

"You know her?" Captain Li's sharp eyes assessed him.

He Juan offered a sheepish look. "'Know' is an overstatement. I have only met her once."

Captain Li hummed. "Zhao Xinya, 36 years old. Beta. She has lived here for almost three years. Unmarried. The last record of her visitors were only food delivery men. She's a freelance artist, thus she spends almost all of her time at home. At 2 am this morning, we received an emergency call from a fourth floor tenant whose room was directly below Miss Zhao, stating that they heard loud bangs on their ceiling followed by a woman's scream. And then when we arrived, Miss Zhao was nowhere to be found and the entire corridor was filled with blood. Just like what you have seen."

He Juan massaged his temple, feeling an oncoming headache that had nothing to do with his condition. "She's… missing?"

But judging from the amount of blood on the floor, it's—

"It's very likely that she's dead." Captain Li deadpanned.

He Juan was startled. Had he said the last sentence out loud? He had just moved into this apartment less than a week ago and now, his neighbor was missing and most probably dead? What kind of messed up scenario was this? He Juan could do nothing but offer a sincere, "I'm sorry. I hope you can find her soon."

"That's why, Mr. He. We would like to ask whether you heard anything last night? After all, your room is the one closest to hers. One more thing, we also want to ask permission to officially search your house."

He Juan took a few seconds to register the meaning behind those words and then, he looked at Captain Li with a disbelieving gaze. "Are you implying that I might have hidden her body inside my house, Captain Li?"

"Precisely," Captain Li replied bluntly. Disregarding the incredulity in He Juan's face, he slid another photo forward. "This was taken in Miss Zhao's house. Do you, Mr. He, have something to say about this?"

He Juan's eyes landed on the photo and his heart instantly sank to the pit of his stomach. It was a photograph of a messy living room. The floor was littered with broken furniture and glass fragments. Blood was splattered in a messy manner and in the middle of it, were two undeniable characters scrawled in blood.

Even through the photo, He Juan could somehow sense the desperation of the woman who was hanging on her life, tremblingly engraved the words with shaky, bloody fingers.

He Juan couldn't be more familiar with it.

Because every stroke, every line of the characters… was his own name.


CREATORS' THOUGHTS
delanasiwarka delanasiwarka

Welcome to the first chapter, everyone! How do you think about the story? Please drop a comment to let me know ><

Still too early for review but I will appreciate it very much if you drop one (make sure not to include BL, adult, smut, or any curse words lest you will be blocked)

Thank you very much and oh, please add the story to your library to receive updates!

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