Chapter 24: “Then I’ll be waiting to walk through fire and water for you.”
Ashley had once advised Qi Yanbai that if he wanted to truly understand Lu Ye, he must control the boundaries of their interactions.
He should gradually approach Lu Ye, maintaining a certain distance, appearing and disappearing like a shadow, avoiding being too hasty.
But theory aside, when it came to practical application, Qi Yanbai found it to be quite a challenge.
Lu Ye had an inexplicable attraction to him.
Whether it was his sharp detachment when keeping people at a distance or his considerate and attentive demeanor when softened, it seemed like he could touch every sensitive spot in Qi Yanbai’s heart.
It was difficult for Qi Yanbai to convince himself to handle things with a balanced approach, and he didn’t want to miss any opportunity that could influence Lu Ye.
With Lu Ye next to him, the narrow and oppressive space seemed to ease.
The nervousness that had been gripping Qi Yanbai’s heart vanished, and even the thick, dark one-way glass in front of him became more bearable to look at.
Qi Yanbai’s good mood had a positive effect on the overall atmosphere in the room.
Absentmindedly twisting a pencil between his fingers, he suddenly felt inspired.
He shook a piece of white paper open and casually sketched two strokes, outlining a simple little figure.
Lu Ye, seeing Qi Yanbai’s actions, turned his head slightly, curious.
“What’s this drawing?” Lu Ye asked.
“Iris flower,” Qi Yanbai replied, folding a corner of the paper to create a curve and showing it to Lu Ye.
“Just a random doodle, testing the feel,” Qi Yanbai asked, “Is it nice?”
“It is,” Lu Ye said truthfully.
Lu Ye was never stingy with compliments.
Since he lacked artistic talent himself, he viewed professionals like Qi Yanbai through a filter that made everything they did impressive.
Whether Qi Yanbai had drawn a flower or an intricately detailed stick figure, Lu Ye might even praise it as “spirited.”
Qi Yanbai, clearly appreciating the praise, brightened visibly at Lu Ye’s words.
He couldn’t help but smile, his lips pursing in delight.
He added leaves and a stem to the iris flower sketch, then folded and tore a piece of paper along the edge.
“I’ll give it to you then,” Qi Yanbai said, as if concerned about the possibility of appearing inappropriate on camera.
He instinctively glanced at the corner where a surveillance camera was and shielded the paper with his arm.
“As a small gift,” Qi Yanbai added.
His emotions were openly displayed, and he was both easy to understand and pure.
However, he was also a bit shy, and his eyelashes lowered as he avoided meeting Lu Ye’s eyes.
Lu Ye was entertained by his cautious behavior, aware that the surveillance cameras were likely not being actively monitored.
Suppressing his laughter, Lu Ye received the piece of paper, tucking it into the folder he had brought with him.
“Okay,” Lu Ye assured him, “I’ll keep it safe.”
Just as they were talking, the room across from the identification room suddenly lit up, and a series of testing sounds came through Lu Ye’s earpiece.
Lu Ye’s smile faded slightly, and he instinctively straightened his posture.
Qi Yanbai seemed to sense something too.
He sat up straight and attempted to peer through the one-way glass, whispering softly, “Is the victim here?”
Lu Ye made a sound of agreement and then reassured, “It’s fine, no need to be nervous.
If her description isn’t clear, we can show her facial feature photos to choose from, and then you can finalize the drawing.”
Being a professional artist and sketching criminal suspects were two different things.
The former required skillful technique, while the latter involved extracting accurate and relevant information from the victim’s chaotic narrative.
At the beginning, Lu Ye had doubted Qi Yanbai’s ability to handle this task and had been prepared to assist him.
However, coincidentally, that day’s victim was a student in the film and television field, and her ability to recognize faces was above average.
“He appeared to be around thirty-seven or thirty-eight years old,” a slightly husky female voice came through the earpiece, “Taller than me by about ten centimeters, round face on the plump side, weighing around a hundred… sixty to seventy kilograms? Narrow eyes, prominent eye bags underneath.”
Qi Yanbai had a solid foundation in drawing since childhood.
He was well-versed in the proportions and arrangement of facial features.
Juggling two tasks, he listened to Lu Ye’s description of the suspect’s features while making subtle adjustments to the facial features of the sketch according to the skeletal structure.
Simultaneously, the victim observed the evolving portrait on the other side of the one-way glass, providing occasional suggestions to help Qi Yanbai refine the details.
The advantage of having professionals on both ends was that it streamlined communication, saving time that would otherwise be wasted.
After about twenty minutes, the sketch in Qi Yanbai’s hand began to take shape.
Lu Ye, observing from the side, noticed the resemblance between the sketch and his previous speculations about the suspect.
As the crime occurred in a public area, Lu Ye and his team had considered the possibility that the suspect might be a maintenance worker for public facilities.
The individual in the portrait was slightly overweight, with marks of sun and wind exposure on his face, suggesting manual labor.
“It looks like him,” the victim’s voice came through the earpiece, tinged with hesitation, as if she still wasn’t entirely sure.
“But there’s something off,” she continued, her voice uncertain, “It feels like him, but upon closer inspection, not quite…”
The sketch in Qi Yanbai’s hand had captured a striking resemblance, yet due to the victim’s fragmented memory, it still wasn’t accurate yet.
Lu Ye had been silent, merely listening at the beginning.
However, when the victim struggled to describe the suspect, Lu Ye shifted his gaze from the sketch to the victim and pointed at the eyes in the drawing.
“Can this part be changed?” Lu Ye asked.
“How?” Qi Yanbai inquired.
“The expression in the eyes,” Lu Ye said, “Don’t make it so stern.
Make it… a bit more ordinary.”
Qi Yanbai understood immediately.
He realized that he might have been influenced by preconceptions when sketching, subconsciously depicting the suspect as a menacing criminal.
As a result, his expression and gaze appeared somewhat gloomy, making him stand out.
Following Lu Ye’s suggestion, Qi Yanbai modified the expression and gaze of the sketch, attempting to make the subject appear more ordinary.
When he showed it to the victim again, her excited voice echoed through the earpiece.
“Yes, that’s him!” she exclaimed, “It’s him!”
Lu Ye and Qi Yanbai exchanged a glance, both reading a sense of relief in each other’s eyes.
With Qi Yanbai’s assistance, the case gained clearer investigative direction.
After the victim left, Lu Ye put away the sketch of the suspected criminal, informed his colleagues, and then escorted Qi Yanbai out of the police station.
“Thank you for coming over tonight,” Lu Ye said as they stood by the roadside.
He seemed apologetic, “I have to go back to review the surveillance footage, so I won’t be able to take you home.”
“It’s alright, I can take a cab back myself,” Qi Yanbai said, adjusting his collar.
He advised Lu Ye, “Take care and try not to stay up too late tonight.”
“No worries, the workload has lightened up,” Lu Ye extended a hand to flatten the collar of Qi Yanbai’s coat, thanking him, “Speaking of which, we should thank you.
If it weren’t for your help tonight, we might have had to work through the night.”
“No need to thank me,” Qi Yanbai joked, “I’m here to serve the people.”
“That’s our duty, not yours,” Lu Ye chuckled, seemingly recalling something.
He mischievously suggested, “But you’ve given me an idea.
How about I apply for something later? Maybe we can send you a medal or something as a token of appreciation?”
“A medal is unnecessary—”
Qi Yanbai’s intent to decline changed mid-sentence, taking on a different tone.
“How about you owe me a favor instead?” Qi Yanbai said half-seriously, half-playfully, “When I need it someday, you can repay me.”
“That sounds good,” Lu Ye was not at all intimidated by Qi Yanbai’s words.
He laughed openly, readily agreeing, “Then I’ll be waiting to walk through fire and water for you.”
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