This question leaves the whole room in silence. After a while, the Ghost Slayer speaks.
“You were determined to resurrect her, whatever the cost… sometimes when your will is strong enough, anything is possible; but that does not mean you were right.”
Li’s eyes turn red; she looks the other way, not willing to let anyone see her weakness.
She says with a deep and monotonous voice, “yes, I’m just a human, no matter what life throws at me… my only family suddenly passes away, my parents despise me, I struggle to pay tuition, and I can’t even find a job here; I’m pathetic, aren’t I? I have to… endure all of that; I really shouldn’t have brought grandma back, I should’ve just died with her.”
Zhao calmly looks at her.
Li coldly laughs, “I’m like a tortoise, crawling on the ground slowly and strenuously, just for a passer-by to kick me, and I fall facing up; when I painfully get back on all fours, I get kicked again, isn’t it hilarious?”
This girl is laden with grudge and anger, although she tries her best to conceal it. Guo’s face heat up: he is stupid and lazy, but he got this job because of his uncle; he stands up and says, “I… I’ll bring you a cup of water.”
Zhao asks, “the sundial responded to you, and your grandma survived, but she was still unwell afterwards, did you take care of her?”
“Who else could have done it,” Li says without an expression, “my parents only agreed to take her in when they heard she was gonna die.”
Zhao nods, “You had to study, make your own living, and pay for your tuition, and you also had to take care of her, must have been tough?”
Lin is a bit surprised: he thought Zhao wanted to get her to talk about the incident with the hungry ghost since she lied, but now he isn’t sure what the boss is trying to get out of her.
What’s the point in asking these questions?
But the Ghost Slayer doesn’t seem impatient at all, so Lin doesn’t say anything, and keeps his doubts to himself.
Guo hands Li a cup of warm water; the girl takes it and doesn’t say anything. She stares at the cup, which is shaking in her hands.
“She wakes up at half past four in the morning, everyday, and she always wants to make me breakfast. But her condition was deteriorating. One time she was cooking milk, and it spilled on the stove, almost causing a gas leak. So I had to wake up at half past four everyday too, and make breakfast before she messes things up. When it’s noon, whether or not I’m having lessons or working on a project I still have to take a one-hour bus back home everyday to make her lunch, make sure she takes her medicine, and then rush back to school. I don’t even have time to eat lunch myself. She is always babbling at home, I can only work once she is asleep, around ten every night. I work til midnight, sometimes even later, and I still have to get up before sunrise.”
Li takes a deep breath, her face is incredibly exhausted, “is it tough?” She takes a sip of water, and says coldly, “don’t waste time, there is no use talking about this, what else do you want to ask about the case, just ask.”
Zhao taps on a file in his hands, “sorry for being rude, but it must have been easier for you once your grandma passed away?”
Li stares at him, “what do you mean?”
Zhao stares back, “I meant what I said, literally.”
Li jumps up and spills the cup of water, “is this how the police treat normal citizens? How can you detain me for no reason, and make false accusations?”
“Sit, calm down.” Zhao wipes the water with tissue, “I’m not accusing you of anything, I’m just asking about how you felt; feelings cannot be crimes, even if you wanted to blow up a building, as long as you didn’t do it, nothing will happen.”
“I want to go home, you can’t detain me.”
Zhao looks at her, and nods, “alright, I will leave out the irrelevant parts; let’s talk about today, you told me you saw the victim and the shadow behind her, do you remember what the shadow looked like?”
Li frowns, “I didn’t take a close look, can’t remember.”
Zhao smiles, his dimples deepen, but his eyes are not smiling; he looks down and says slowly, “maybe you wouldn’t remember a passer-by, that’s normal… but how can you forget something so frightening? If you don’t remember, why are you shaking?”
Zhao says with a more serious tone, “didn’t you tell me it was black, a little short, and a little fat?”
“Revoking your testimony is a bad habit. Tell me, did the shadow look like what you said?”
Lin slams on the desk and shouts, “say it!”
“Yes… so what!?” Li erupts.
“Oh, a little short, a little fat.” Zhao sluggishly repeats, and crosses his arms on the desk, “then was it male or female, young or old?”
Everyone here except Li knows what the hungry ghost looked like… there is no telling whether it was male, female, young or old; it was a bony monster with a giant stomach, scythe hands, and as tall as two humans.
Everyone is staring at Li with suspicion.
Zhao lowers his voice, and almost whispers, “I lied, human memory is unreliable, and you could very possibly forget about something if it frightened you; your brain might want to protect you from fear and shut down the memory as a defense mechanism. So what you said… could be just your imagination.”
Guo slow-wittedly realises that this really isn’t just filing a case report, it’s a trial, and he has a bad feeling about it.
Li’s face turns grey, with defeat.
Zhao is no longer faking a smile, “now can you tell me, why did you jump off the building this morning?”
Li’s chest vigorously rises and falls.
“Did you think that if you kill yourself, then you will be freed from this curse, and you will be forgiven?” Zhao laughs coldly, “I’m not much older than you… many young kids like you are not afraid of death, because they are too young to comprehend it fully. Especially you, you’re so… determined and impulsive.”
Li’s voice weakens, “what.. what makes you say that? How do you know I don’t understand death? I know how it feels, I have seen it! The heart stops, breathing stops, her body… turns cold, becomes inhuman… and I can’t find her, can’t see her anymore, can’t…”
“Li Qian,” Zhao interrupts, “you don’t understand nor do you fear death, but you fear separation, you couldn’t accept your grandma leaving you suddenly.”
The interrogation room is incredibly quiet; Li’s body shivers like a fallen leaf caught in the wind.
Zhao continues, “the shadow you saw tailing the victim, was it… old, wearing a thick cotton jacket, and a hairpin on her head?”
Lin and Guo are astonished.
Li lets out a shrieking and abrupt screech; her face distorts into a frightening expression.
Is she going crazy? Guo thinks; he doesn’t understand the situation. He glances at the boss, who is fumbling with his fingers, looking like he really wants to smoke.
Zhao takes out a photo; it’s a photo of Li’s grandma, who wears a gentle smile on her face. Guo recognises her as the old lady who pounced forward to protect Li from the hungry ghost.
Zhao sets the photo in front of Li, “this is Wang Yufen, born in 1940; she died last month, cause of death was an overdose of drugs.”
Li glares at the photo, her eyes almost popping out.
Zhao continues, “your grandma is your only family, so the two of you must have been incredibly close… can you tell me why are you so afraid of her after she died? What makes you think she would hurt you?”
Li freezes into a statue.
Zhao’s voice softens, “if you don’t tell the truth, you won’t get the chance in the future, you will never be free for the rest of your life; lies will always be lies, and they will haunt you forever like a curse.”
Someone else… said something similar to her today.
Li sluggishly raises her head.
Zhao leans forward, and looks her in the eyes, “the Sundial of Reincarnation connected the souls of you and your grandma, normally you would’ve died together, but you’re still alive… so your grandma must have died earlier than destined. I kept thinking, what went wrong? Did the Hell Guards make a mistake, or did someone trap her living soul?”
“But then I realise, I’m so stupid, there is another possibility: the sundial could have disconnected from her. And what that means is, the person who brought her back, murdered her.”
The interrogation room is so quiet that a pin dropping on the floor would be heard.
“She was suffering from dementia, so she must like to eat candy like a child. Tell me, who put the blood-sugar-lowering drugs in the candy box?”
He hears Li’s coarse voice; she softly says, “it was me.”