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    Tang Yang had already been frightened to the core. He screamed desperately and wriggled his body to get out.

    Lin Shuicheng's car had flipped over, with the driver's side still suspended in midair. Tang Yang screamed for a while before he felt Lin Shuicheng's hand reach over and grab his shoulder.

    Through several airbags, Lin Shuicheng's voice sounded muffled: "Tang Yang."

    At the sound of Lin Shuicheng calling his name, Tang Yang immediately stopped screaming and started crying instead. "Brother, I really didn't mean any harm. I just came because someone said you should know you're a substitute, but before I could even say anything, you figured it out yourself... You've been so kind to me, buying me food and drinks, and even offering to pay my medical bills. Oh, sorry, Brother, but I really didn't mean any harm. I don't want to die either..."

    He felt Lin Shuicheng's hand on his shoulder move slightly, applying pressure that caused a bit of pain. Tang Yang dared not cry anymore. "Brother?"

    Lin Shuicheng's voice was filled with a slight, bewildered gasp. "Tell me what just happened."

    "Can't you see, Brother?" Tears and snot flowed down Tang Yang's face as he clung to Lin Shuicheng like a lifeline. "Please, Brother, don't be hurt! Neither of us knows how to drive... Waaah..."

    For the first time, there was a hint of agitation in Lin Shuicheng's calm and cool voice. He interrupted Tang Yang, his tone slightly strained. "Tell me what happened."

    Tang Yang didn't dare dawdle anymore. Through his sobs, he recounted, "Just now, a big truck almost hit us. I didn't understand how you knew, but I didn't see how it approached. Anyway, it rushed past, and now we're flipped over in a ditch... Brother, do you think there's signal here? Will our car explode like in the movies?"

    With all his strength, Lin Shuicheng held onto consciousness, striving to distinguish reality from the dense hallucinations before him: the pouring rain outside, the rumble of thunder, and the truck that had vanished from sight after narrowly missing them.

    He caught his breath, turned sideways, and pushed the phone through the crack to Tang Yang, his voice hoarse. "Call the police. The unlock password for the screen is the nine-key input sequence of the word 'wait.' I'm not sure if anyone will answer the call now."

    Tang Yang screamed in panic, "Bro, I use the 26-key layout! Bro, how do you type that in nine keys?"

    But Lin Shuicheng didn't respond.

    Tang Yang sensed something warm and sticky dripping slowly, intermingled with the sound of water seeping into the car, making it difficult to notice.

    He realized what had happened – Lin Shuicheng had smashed the window on his side. When the car tilted, half of the windscreen shattered, and all the glass shards were on Lin Shuicheng's side. He didn't know if there would be any severe consequences.

    Tang Yang was terrified. Trembling, he pressed the buttons repeatedly until he finally typed the correct password and dialed the police hotline.

    As soon as he connected, the responder on the other end said, "We are aware of your situation. Our team is on its way. Please keep your line open."

    After Tang Yang hung up, he cried out to Lin Shuicheng, "Bro, Bro, say something. You can't die, Bro...

    After a long while, Lin Shuicheng softly grunted in response.

    Upon hearing his voice, Tang Yang immediately felt relieved.

    He listened keenly to the sounds outside, and within no more than five minutes, a faint siren grew louder as it approached.

    Through his tears, he smiled with excitement, informing Lin Shuicheng, "Brother! Look, we're saved! It hasn't even been three minutes, and the police are already here!"

    When Lin Shuicheng woke up, he saw Tang Yang lying on the edge of his hospital bed, his eyes wide with concern.

    Upon making eye contact, Tang Yang's round eyes crinkled in relief. "Brother, you're finally awake!"

    Lin Shuicheng surveyed his surroundings. They seemed to be in a private room in a hospital. The window was slightly ajar, letting in moist air and a sprinkle of rain, which filled the space with a damp freshness.

    In that instant, he felt as if he had been transported through time.

    It seemed like just moments ago, he had woken up in Star University's affiliated hospital, only two hours after Luo Song's accident.

    Tang Yang chattered away, "The police rescued us and brought us here for emergency treatment. Hehe, when they were checking my hand, I told them I got hurt in the car, so they took care of me too, and paid for everything! Then they wanted me to give a statement, but I thought I couldn't leave you alone here, so I came back."

    Lin Shuicheng had several bandages on his body, all from cuts caused by glass. His hand was the most severely injured, with a shard of glass piercing through the palm near his left wrist. Fortunately, it hadn't damaged any nerves or blood vessels, resulting in minimal bleeding. However, he might have difficulty performing certain actions smoothly for a while.

    He tried moving around and found no other discomfort. Thus, he got out of bed.

    The door creaked open, and a doctor entered alongside a police officer. Upon seeing Lin Shuicheng, the doctor raised an eyebrow. "Ah, you're awake. Feeling any discomfort?"

    Lin Shuicheng asked, "How did I pass out?"

    "The cause was neurogenic shock," the doctor explained. "Your body has been in a suboptimal health condition for quite some time, with several indices lower than the normal range. Young people should take better care of themselves." He continued, "My advice is to stay in the hospital for observation for a day. Since you were unconscious and your companion didn't provide information about your medical history or allergies, we didn't dare prescribe anything."

    "No need, thank you," Lin Shuicheng said. Then, he turned to the police officer and smiled calmly. "Do we need to give our statements?"

    "Yes, but there's no rush, Mr. Lin. You can wait until you've rested more…" The police officer's words were cut short by Lin Shuicheng. "Let's start now."

    Startled, the officer seemed to have never encountered someone so eager to give a statement. He then smiled as well. "Sure, if that's what you prefer. Let's proceed."

    Seeing the nurse leave, Tang Yang momentarily hesitated, unsure if he should exit too. Gently patting his arm, Lin Shuicheng signaled for him to go first.

    Tang Yang then slipped out of the room.

    Raindrops persisted outside, accompanied occasionally by flashes of lightning that illuminated the ward with a blinding glow.

    "Before we begin, I'd like to get a general understanding of the situation," Lin Shuicheng spoke softly, pointing at his head. "I... was quite startled, so there might be some details I'm..."

    He lifted his gaze, revealing beautiful eyes that held the depths of the ocean. His red teardrop mole was like a gem, enhancing his allure to the point where even his frail appearance had an enchanting charm.

    The police officer said, "That's fine. It's about you and your friend driving on a mountain road when you nearly collided with a freight truck. Your last-minute steering saved both of you. Oh, and you were driving without a license, right?"

    Lin Shuicheng nodded. "Yes."

    The officer looked at him helplessly. "Despite the advancement in autonomous driving, we still require everyone to obtain a driver's license for this reason. There are some unexpected situations that the system might not be able to fully anticipate. You're a graduate student at Star University, aren't you? A high-achiever with a high IQ, but that doesn't mean you should take risks with your life."

    Lin Shuicheng smiled again. "Yes, I understand."

    "Driving without a license will result in a fine, and your license plate will be revoked. You won't be allowed on the road for three months. Fortunately, nothing serious happened, or else you'd have to visit our station," the officer scribbled away.

    Lin Shuicheng asked, "But I have a question—I really don't remember much. Why did a freight truck suddenly appear there? Was it autonomous or driven by a person? And why would such a hazardous freight operation be conducted during the early hours of the morning?"

    The officer became slightly flustered by his questions. "Just a moment..."

    Lin Shuicheng narrowed his eyes slightly as he observed him.

    This police officer was very young. Despite wearing the uniform of the Alliance, he appeared quite inexperienced, probably freshly graduated from the academy.

    The police officer flipped through the files and read aloud, "According to our investigation report and system tracking, this was an accidental incident."

    A loud thunderclap echoed outside the hospital room, followed by a downpour of rain.

    Lin Shuicheng listened quietly, his expression unwavering.

    "It was an unmanned cargo truck carrying chicken feed. Its intended destination should have been a breeding farm to the west for nighttime replenishment, and it was the only vehicle on that route. However, due to road repairs, the route was diverted, but the system failed to update the map in time. The autonomous driving system of the truck, upon interception, automatically planned an alternative route, which unfortunately led to your collision. We're currently in contact with the carrier, and they should be responsible for your medical expenses."

    After explaining the situation, the police officer sighed in relief, "Thankfully, you survived. They say that surviving a great calamity brings future blessings, so things will surely get better for you."

    Subsequently, the officer asked a few more questions about the departure time, destination, and the circumstances at the time.

    The statement was straightforward. Lin Shuicheng apologized, "I'm sorry for the trouble."

    The officer replied with a smile, "It's all part of our job."

    Lin Shuicheng then asked, "Could you please take me back home? I doubt my car is usable anymore."

    The officer responded, "Of course, sir. If you feel well enough to travel, we can leave right away."

    Lin Shuicheng said, "I might have to trouble you to wait a bit longer. The person I brought in needs medical attention and an operation on his hand. I need to check on his condition."

    "Sure, no problem."

    Before Lin Shuicheng left the ward, the officer hesitantly called out to him, "...Are you alright?"

    Lin Shuicheng turned around, looking at the officer with a puzzled expression.

    "You seem... rather unwell. Did I scare you? Should I get you some hot water?" the officer asked, noticing how pale Lin Shuicheng's complexion was and how his eyes seemed devoid of life, as if he were in a state of extreme suppression and numbness.

    Yet, surprisingly, he himself remained strangely composed.

    Lin Shuicheng replied, "No, thank you. That won't be necessary."

    Tang Yang's situation required surgical debridement due to slight signs of inflammation, and he would need to stay in the hospital for observation, along with a series of medications that would incur costs.

    The previously cheerful Tang Yang suddenly became listless, "Brother, what should we do? The police surely won't be willing to pay for the subsequent expenses..."

    "Rest assured and focus on your recovery. Don't worry about the expenses." Lin Shuicheng smiled for the first time, patting Tang Yang's head gently. "Wait here for me. I'll go back to fetch something."

    Tang Yang scratched his head, confused but obedient. "Alright, Brother, be careful when you return with them. You're so brave. If it were me, I wouldn't dare to leave the house today after what just happened..."

    The police officer waited for him downstairs, the patrol car's lights flashing. Upon seeing Lin Shuicheng approach, he rolled down the window and waved him over.

    As Lin Shuicheng walked closer, his steps faltered, nearly losing his balance. He grabbed onto the car frame to steady himself.

    The officer was startled and quickly opened the door to support him. "What's wrong? Are you alright?"

    "I might have low blood sugar," Lin Shuicheng said, his face pale but forcing a smile. His eyes seemed to be filled with a deep, inky darkness. "Could you help me buy some candies from the convenience store?"

    The officer hurriedly replied, "Of course, just wait in the car. It's raining outside, so get in quickly."

    After taking a few steps out, the officer heard the car door close and didn't give it another thought.

    He entered the convenience store and picked out a box of candies, preparing to pay. Suddenly, he heard an announcement over his police radio—this channel was used by the entire police department for significant notifications.

    To his horror, it was Lin Shuicheng's voice coming through the radio!

    The police officer rushed to the roadside, only to find his patrol car had vanished.

    Lin Shuicheng closed the car door, started the vehicle, and adjusted the communication frequency: "Can you hear me? Hello?"

    He shut off all incoming communication channels, yet notifications on the police car's screen were multiplying rapidly as more and more people tuned in to listen to his voice.

    "I have no idea what your intentions are, nor do I care," Lin Shuicheng said slowly, altering the destination of the autonomous driving route every half minute. "Last time, it was to prevent me from making an emergency call. This time, you arrived within three minutes. Out of respect for law enforcement, I'll temporarily assume that there's a reasonable explanation behind your actions so far."

    Meanwhile, chaos erupted in the police station across the city.

    Someone bellowed, "Central system, revoke his control over that vehicle immediately!"

    "His connection module has already been disconnected. We can't remotely operate the car he's in right now!"

    "He's insane! He doesn't know how to drive!"

    "Hurry, hurry—"

    Amidst the static, the pitter-patter of rain, and the pounding of hearts, a cacophony emerged.

    Lin Shuicheng gazed calmly at the dusky road as he drove into an empty suburb, where pedestrians and vehicles had become scarce.

    "Two years ago, Chu Shihan passed away unexpectedly. Six years ago, my father died accidentally. My brother remains in a coma to this day."

    "And you, or those behind you, have hindered my investigation, forbidding me from uncovering the truth. You veil my eyes with the word 'accident'," Lin Shuicheng continued methodically. He drove past a barrier and turned onto an open plain.

    Tangled weeds sprawled across the muddy ground, and at the end stood an apple orchard.

    "Hurry! Estimate his intended route! Predict his next move!"

    "Report, he's changing routes randomly. Impossible to predict, impossible to predict!! Requesting Level A clearance to track his ID card!"

    "Someone among you once told me to have faith in a higher power, because there are so many coincidences and accidents in this world, and because I'm not significant."

    Lin Shuicheng said, "I did look into it. I saw a story where a deity, swayed by a devil's cunning argument, tested the loyalty of its followers by taking everything from them. Their wealth, family, freedom, and life. And it said, 'This far, and no further.'"

    He enunciated each word deliberately, recounting the tale,

    "Afterward, that person went mad. He began to question the deity."

    "He said, may the night that conceived me and the day that bore me be consumed, may that day become darkness, may God not seek it out, may light not illuminate it. May dark clouds veil him, may an eclipse terrify him, may that night never enter the cycle of years, never mark the passing of time. May that night lack the joy of song, the bliss of childbirth. May the stars of dawn at its end turn to darkness, forever awaiting no glow of sunrise." [Quotation]

    Each word was spoken calmly and detachedly, as if these furious curses originated not from the story but from his very being.

    "Why does what I fear come upon me, why does what I dread meet me head-on? There is no peace, no tranquility, no happiness, only calamity." [Quotation]

    Lin Shuicheng said, "In the end, this rebel submitted back to the divine. But I won't."

    "If I were this person, I would sever the deity's head, drink its blood, devour its flesh, shatter its altar, even if it meant sharing the same fate. For I know, I am not without worth, isn't it so, for God needs to prove the loyalty of His followers to the devil? What is my worth that God would strip me of everything?"

    "Care to make a bet? With my life, on my worth?"

    The rain poured heavily, and the apple tree before him swayed, its leaves lush and vibrant, exuding vitality.

    As the giant tree in the distance drew closer, Lin Shuicheng tightened his seatbelt and looked ahead calmly. "I hope you can give me an answer. By the way, my mental state hasn't been too good lately. For our mutual convenience, I hope you can provide something that allows me to verify the authenticity of this situation at any time."

    "The police officer whose car I commandeered was innocent, please don't hold him accountable."

    "A collision test at 50 km/h with a 1.5-ton A-shaped vehicle against an apple tree standing still, I have a 50% chance of instant death and a 50% chance of severe injury, leading to death within two to three weeks. I'm now opening the communication system, you have ten seconds left for me to consider braking." Lin Shuicheng's gaze was cold. "You and me."

    The system intervened, with a voice on the verge of collapse shouting, "Stop! Lin Shuicheng! Stop! This is the directive from Department Nine personnel and the Alliance's National Security Agency! Stop! We've all told you!"

    "Received."

    Lin Shuicheng slammed on the brakes.

    Due to Newton's First Law, he had only five seconds to decelerate. The still-sliding car collided fiercely into an apple tree!

    The seatbelt dug tightly into Lin Shuicheng's body, causing him to convulse. The intense impact left him dizzy.

    Just before he lost consciousness, his phone, placed on the passenger seat, rang.

    The caller ID read: Fu Luoyin.

    With great effort, Lin Shuicheng stretched out his hand and pressed the answer button with his last bit of strength.

    He gasped for air, his vision flickering between light and darkness.

    Fu Luoyin's panicked voice came through, "Lin Shuicheng? Where are you? How did I locate you in the outskirts of an orchard? Are you alright?"

    Such a deep voice resonated, as if consciousness traveled through time and space, returning to a night that once existed.

    The sound of rain, the buzz of electricity, and the low voice on the phone.

    —Do you know what should be happening now?

    —Waiting for my husband to come pick me up.

    —You should be sleeping obediently. Your husband picking you up comes after that.

    —I can't sleep.

    —Then keep the phone on. I'll talk to you. Just listen, no need to respond. If you can't sleep, I'll tell you a story.

    A story?

    Lin Shuicheng thought to himself, he was no longer a three-year-old child.

    Yet, he still quietly closed his eyes, waiting—waiting for someone to come and get him.

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