WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Link Click Episode 9, "Consequence of Goodwill," now streaming on Funimation.
Link Click has never shied away from warning its audience about the consequences of trying to change time. It's why time traveler Lu Guang has the three rules and constantly reminds fellow traveler, Cheng Xiaoshi why they cannot try to change the past -- because it would inevitably change the future. Cheng Xiaoshi struggles with this concept, however, because all he wants to do is help people. That in itself isn't a bad thing but when it comes to time travel, sometimes the best thing to do is... nothing. At least, that's what Episode 9 of the anime proves.
In the episode, Lu Guang instructs Qiao Ling, one of the principal players in their latest case, to stay behind with Cheng Xiaoshi and confiscate his phone. He can't risk Cheng Xiaoshi doing anything reckless, especially with his current emotional state in such disarray. The police are having trouble finding the identity of the serial killer they're hunting since the murders don't seem to have rhyme or reason. They deduce the murderer has a strong anti-social personality disorder and have published the photo online in the hopes of closing in on the suspect. Reports are pointing to one person: Liu Min, an executive director at a company. Unfortunately, without strong evidence, they can't arrest him.
At the police station, Lu Guang looks at the grainy photo once more, his eyes lighting up blue as he activates his powers. From there he's able to find the serial killer's license plate, but also finds someone else who shouldn't be there at all: Cheng Xiaoshi. Both Qiao Ling and Lu Guang forgot to confiscate his laptop and he saw the photo published online earlier in the day.
By high-fiving himself, Cheng Xiaoshi is able to enter the suspect's photo alone. The disadvantage of doing so is that he cuts off all communication with Lu Guang, meaning he won't have his friend's guidance as he navigates the past. Just at that moment, the serial killer returns to his car with, unbeknownst to him, Emma, and Cheng Xiaoshi seizes the opportunity to crawl into the trunk.
Emma tells Liu Min how she once had big dreams to work in the city but now she'd rather find something that would suit her. The car suddenly takes a turn and the killer takes Emma and Cheng Xiaoshi to an empty yard. Liu Min confronts her, asking if she's planning on running away with the money. He sneers at her attempt to hide how she's not from a white-collar background. Emma cries out that she doesn't know anything about the money, begging him to let her go, but Liu Min ignores her pleas and puts his hands around her throat.
In the trunk, Cheng Xiaoshi is frozen with horror. He finally realizes it was Emma he'd tried to help back in Link Click Episode 1, and it was because of him that she was dead. Now he's going to hear her struggle and die as Liu Min strangles her, just a few meters away from him, and will be powerless to stop her from dying a second time.
The donghua perfectly encapsulates Cheng Xiaoshi's fear with their use of frames. Because he's in the trunk with nowhere to go -- with Emma being strangled nearby -- the frame tightens, mimicking the claustrophobia and horror that Cheng Xiaoshi and Emma are both feeling. Neither of them can breathe (metaphorically and physically). The sheer panic heightens as Cheng Xiaoshi talks to himself, struggling with this revelation and his guilt alongside the sounds of the murder happening on the other side. And he screams.
The scream startles Liu Min, who releases Emma. He walks to the back of the car and slowly opens the trunk, the light catching Cheng Xiaoshi's murderous eyes. At that moment, Lu Guang rushes back to the studio, realizes what happened, and yells for Cheng Xiaoshi to not do anything stupid. Liu Min opens the trunk and finds...nothing.
Cheng Xiaoshi exited the photo just in time. Lu Guang immediately yells at him, believing he had somehow altered the past. But Cheng Xiaoshi, voice broken and small, tells him he didn't do anything because he knows they can't change time.
But somehow, time did change. When Lu Guang calls the police officers to see if they caught the killer, the officer tells him Liu Min couldn't have killed Emma because he had been in the hospital at that time, and, in the present, is paralyzed from the waist down. What's more, surveillance footage caught a girl walking alone on an abandoned bridge that night: Emma. Someone or something has changed the past so that not only was Liu Min physically incapable of committing murder, but Emma was alive at that time.
Did Cheng Xiaoshi really change the timeline? Is Liu Min really the murderer or is it someone else? Or is there another person who has time-traveling abilities? Link Click's cliffhanger ending leaves viewers much to think about before Episode 10 airs.