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GUARDIAN

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The sundial completes a revolution in a day, and the sun rises and sets in the east and west, symbolizing the endless cycle of life and reincarnation. — "Cycle Sundial" Since the beginning of the primeval times, with the awakening of all things, there has been good and evil, and the earliest judgment of good and evil was inscribed on the mountain and river cone. — "Mountain and River Cone" Dreams do not know when to wake up or when to fade away. When the sky collapses and the earth splits, unable to face the light of day, it turns out that these are thoughts that dare not be pondered under the clear blue sky. What has never been expressed is the heart that cannot live, die, forget, or remember. — "Merit Pen" "I possess renowned mountains and great rivers in the world. Thinking about it is nothing extraordinary. It's just a pile of worthless stones and untamed river water. From head to toe, perhaps only these few sincere moments can be weighed and sold for two taels. Interested? Take it." — "Soul-suppressing Lantern"

Chapter 1 No. 4, Guangming Road

On the fifteenth day of the lunar seventh month, before the break of dawn,

Both large and small night creatures had returned to their abodes; even the bustling streets of Dragon City were gradually becoming desolate at this hour. Only occasional insect chirps emanated from the grass, creating an intermittent and startling ambiance.

At half-past two in the morning, dew descended, rendering the air increasingly humid.

A combination of moisture and stickiness permeated the surroundings.

Whether influenced by the wind or not, shadows of unknown entities seemed to sway in the corners. Walking on the street, one would constantly feel something gazing at them from behind.

It was precisely at this time that Guo Changcheng, holding his notification letter, entered No. 4 Guangming Road.

Orphaned from an early age, Guo Changcheng possessed an unremarkable appearance, coupled with a solitary and timid nature. Inherently predisposed to begging, he was fortunate to have seven aunts and eight aunts at home who treated him well, taking turns caring for him until he graduated from university.

Unfortunately, Guo Changcheng himself was lackluster. He struggled through a mediocre university, and his performance was quite ordinary. Standing like a man, he couldn't even utter a word when meeting strangers.

As a result, Guo Changcheng, living up to expectations, failed to find a job. After graduating, he idled at home for half a year.

Later, his second uncle arranged for him to be transferred to the Public Security Bureau. Unable to bear watching him languish, his second uncle managed to secure a position for his unruly nephew within the public security system, hoping to give him something to do.

Guo Changcheng initially thought that wearing a uniform, making tea at work, managing files, and playing solitaire in his free time would be his future life. That was until he received this peculiar "letter of acceptance."

When he first received it, Guo Changcheng thought there was some mistake. The document was conspicuously red and official, with the following words:

"Comrade Guo Changcheng,

Congratulations on your recruitment by our department. Here, you will enjoy the benefits of a national civil servant, including salary and benefits higher than those of counterparts in other departments. Simultaneously, you will bear the significant responsibility of serving the people. We hope that in the future, you will be dedicated to your new position, be enterprising, obey organizational leadership, and foster unity and friendship with colleagues. Together, let us contribute to social stability and the prosperity of our nation.

Please report to our office at 2:30 a.m. on August 31st (fifteenth day of the lunar seventh month) with your resident identity card and this notification letter. We welcome you on behalf of all the staff in our department, and we look forward to you becoming a good comrade and colleague.

Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China

Special Investigation Department

Date: Year X, Month X, Day X"

In theory, upon seeing this bizarre reporting time, a normal person would assume it was a printing error and would at least make a phone call to confirm. However, Guo Changcheng, who was already socially awkward, developed severe phone anxiety during his half-year of being a shut-in. The mere thought of making a call to someone overwhelmed him to the point of losing sleep.

As a result, he kept avoiding it until the late hours of August 30th. The call was still not made.

Therefore, Guo Changcheng came up with what he believed to be a mutually beneficial idea—he decided to stay up all night, personally go there at 2:30 a.m., and, if no one was present, find a McDonald's nearby to catch some sleep. He would return at 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon since one of these times was bound to be correct.

At this hour, the subway in the city had already stopped. Guo Changcheng had to drive himself, going through considerable trouble before finding the right place with the help of navigation.

No. 4 Guangming Road did not face the street; it was in a very concealed courtyard. Guo Changcheng stood at the gate, carefully scrutinizing for a long time before, illuminated by the light of his mobile phone screen, he found a small sign under the dense ivy leaves. He could then clearly see the house number.

Below the house number, there was a line of small characters engraved on the stone, saying "Special Investigation Department," along with a police emblem underneath.

The courtyard was well-landscaped, with parking spaces at the entrance. Moving inside, a row of luxuriant pagoda trees almost formed a small forest, leaving only a narrow path. Crossing through it, he finally saw a small house resembling a message center and an office building with some years on it.

The lights were still on inside the message center. Through the window, Guo Changcheng saw a figure in uniform with a large hat on his head, holding a newspaper and occasionally flipping through it.

Guo Changcheng didn't have time to think about why the personnel in the message center were still not off duty at this late hour. He took a deep breath, his palms sweating nervously.

"I'm here for an interview. This is my notification letter—I'm here for an interview. This is my notification letter—I'm here for an interview. This is my notification letter—" Guo Changcheng stood in place, reciting this line like a memorized passage. After dozens of repetitions, he finally walked over, bracing himself. With trembling hands, he knocked on the window of the message center. Before the other person fully raised his head, Guo Changcheng spoke as if delivering his last words, "I... I'm here to report. This is my application letter."

The middle-aged man inside the message center, who was reading the newspaper, looked at him with confusion and asked, "Ah?"

It was over. He could make a mistake even in this manner. Guo Changcheng wanted to cry but had no tears. His face turned into a big purple sweet potato.

Fortunately, the counterpart spotted the notification in his hand and immediately comprehended the situation. He warmly exclaimed, "Oh... Oh! You're the newcomer for this year, right? What shall I call you? Ah, I see, Xiaoguo! It's been several years since we've had new faces here. How's it going? Was it challenging to find this place?"

Guo Changcheng breathed a sigh of relief. He always favored such exuberant individuals. As long as the other person kept talking, he only needed to nod or shake his head; no need to organize his thoughts.

"First day reporting, isn't it? Let me tell you, you're quite lucky. Coincidentally, our leaders are also here tonight. Come, let me introduce you."

Upon hearing this, Guo Changcheng's hair stood on end. He didn't feel lucky at all; in fact, he sensed a faint moldiness hovering over his head.

Guo Changcheng lacked resilience, especially in the presence of individuals with strong personalities or higher status. Since childhood, he would involuntarily stumble upon seeing a teacher and make a detour when the principal was nearby. Despite being a law-abiding citizen, every encounter with the armed police during National Day left him feeling scrutinized with suspicion.

Meeting the leadership? He'd rather meet a ghost.

Just then, the door of a small building was pushed open, and a young man strolled out. He had a cigarette dangling from his mouth, hands in his pockets, tall stature, upright shoulders, thick eyebrows, deep eye sockets, and a high nose bridge. Exceptionally handsome, yet his expression was profoundly gloomy.

He furrowed his brow, creating a gust of wind as he walked, effectively conveying the message, "Don't block the way, stay out of trouble, all of you, move aside." Unfortunately, Guo Changcheng happened to meet his gaze at that moment, and he was instantly startled by those beautiful yet icy black eyes. He had a strange intuition – this handsome guy had a bad temper.

However, when the handsome guy saw people standing at the door, he suddenly slammed on the brakes. In the next moment, he miraculously transformed his expression, leaping from thunderstorm to clear sky. He naturally revealed a friendly smile without any transitional buffer.

With this smile, two shallow dimples appeared on his cheeks. The crooked mouth with the cigarette gave him a slightly mischievous look – mischievous in just the right measure, approachable.

"Well, well, if it isn't a case of speaking of the devil. Come, young man, let's get acquainted. This is our leader." Guo Changcheng was pushed forward by the middle-aged man from the communication room, stumbled a half step forward, and heard the loud voice behind him say, "Zhao Chu, we have a new colleague!"

Zhao Chu extended a warm handshake, "Hello, welcome warmly."

Guo Changcheng awkwardly wiped the sweat from his palm onto his trousers and then embarrassingly extended his hand in the wrong direction, almost grabbing the back of his future boss's hand. He quickly withdrew, resembling a twitchy button on a control panel. His short-sleeved shirt was instantly soaked with sweat under the armpits and on the back, unveiling a slowly forming world map.

Zhao Chu tactfully smiled, and without embarrassing him, naturally lifted the extended hand. Without making it too warm or too cold, he patted Guo Changcheng on the shoulder. Speaking as if making a speech on Monday morning flag-raising ceremony, he said, "Sorry, I have some urgent matters to attend to. If you need anything later, feel free to find me. We're all family now. You've been through a lot today!"

With an apologetic smile to Guo Changcheng, Zhao Chu greeted Old Wu and hurriedly left.

Old Wu seemed to be Zhao Chu's devoted fan. Despite listening to some irrelevant chatter, he seemed like a ladle, carrying on while leading Guo Changcheng into the office building. He continued to talk endlessly, "Zhao Chu, you know, young and talented, good temperament, never puts on airs when dealing with people..."

Guo Changcheng, still recovering from the terrifying aura of meeting the higher-ups, was absent-mindedly moving forward.

Due to his fear of appearing foolish, he hadn't noticed that the guide, Mr. Old Wu, had a face as pale as wall plaster under the light. His lips were blood-red, and the corners of his mouth were drawn up to his ears. In the intervals of opening and closing, one could see that he had no tongue in his mouth.

Meeting the leader? It would be better to let him meet a ghost.

At that moment, the door to the office was pushed open, and a young girl in a white dress appeared. She spoke with a ethereal voice, "Did you bring your notification and ID?"

The cold air rushed out from the open office door, and Guo Changcheng's heart was suspended high in his chest, refusing to beat. He realized that if he continued to play dumb, he might truly become foolish.

Holding his breath, he slowly raised his head. His gaze slid over the spotless white dress and landed on the girl's exposed neck...

One second later, a choked sound like being strangled emitted from Guo Changcheng's throat. He stood there, half-opened mouth, unable to scream. His eyes were about to fall out, retreating a step in fear, limbs cold and numb, as if he no longer belonged to himself.

He saw... he saw a "red line" on the girl's neck! Not as an accessory, but tightly adhered to the skin... a fine stitch sewing the head to the neck!

A chilly hand was placed on his shoulder, and Old Wu's voice came from beside him, "Hey, Xiaoguo, what's wrong with you?"

Guo Changcheng suddenly turned around, meeting Old Wu's paper-like face and the blood-filled gaping mouth. Having previously contemplated seeing a leader rather than a ghost, he was now receiving his karmic retribution. Clearly, Guo Changcheng had quite a fruitful night – he not only encountered a leader but also saw a ghost.

After a pause of two seconds, Guo Changcheng didn't utter a word. He fainted straight away.

He fell straight to the ground – yes, to avoid looking foolish, he skipped the step of rolling his eyes.

His dear relatives indeed found him a uniquely extraordinary job.

Chapter 2

The luminescent glow, resembling that of fireflies, failed utterly to dispel the pitch-black night. The disheveled footsteps of the young girl echoed on the uneven and worn floor tiles, worn by the passage of time. Suddenly, she stumbled over an unknown obstacle, and her body forcefully knelt to the ground.

The summer night was oppressively hot, akin to a steamer. Li Qian, in the throes of intensity, clutched her clothes with nervous fingers. She could hear the vigorous pounding of her heart and the footsteps of another person. Only old-fashioned, soft-soled cloth shoes could produce that gentle "rustling" sound. Upon closer inspection, the person's footsteps seemed somewhat sluggish, scraping against the ground, as if their legs were not in the best condition.

Li Qian abruptly turned around, but apart from the chaotic dance of small insects under the lamplight, there was nothing behind her. Despite her originally beautiful appearance, the di

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