First, it was the painful sensation of his neck being punctured, then it was the feeling of water invading his nostril that made Xiao Li cough violently – gradually drawing him out of unconsciousness.
The light in the room was brightly lit and just the mere thought of making contact with it was unbearable. His eyes were closed but he could hear a familiar voice at the side of his ear.
“What did I just say, Uncle?” Yan Ming proudly said, “He’ll be up in three seconds.”
“There won’t be any harm to his body, right?” Li Shiqing’s voice broke through the momentary silence, “Give Chen Wu another call to confirm this.”
Yan Ming clicked his tongue, then dragged out the next few words, “How intimaaattteee.”
Sound of footsteps moving away was then followed by the door closing, Yan Ming seemed to have gone off to make a call.
Xiao Li opened his eyes and let it travel around the room in one loop before realizing that he was lying on a sofa in Li Shiqing’s living room with the owner sitting beside him.
The clock on the wall displayed eight o’clock nighttime. Xiao Li frowned and tried to sit up only to discover that his strength had yet to fully recover. His limbs were weak and ached with pain, lacking all the power that he once had.
A shadow suddenly concealed his vision. Li Shiqing leaned over his body to observe him closer with a rather stern expression that was hard to decipher.
“Qing-Ye.” Xiao Li tried to turn his body over to the other side of the sofa.
Li Shiqing reached out and gripped his chin, turning his head back. His voice was unexpectedly calm as he spoke, “You’re not even going to say thank you?”
“Qing-Ye, thank you for helping me get out.” Xiao Li uttered as he lied back even further for the sake of avoiding Li Shiqing’s hand. “But I don’t understand—”
“But I understand it very well.” Li Shiqing withdrew his hands and said indifferently, “Carrying drugs on Lu Wu’s territory? Forgetting to properly handle it after taking it from Lin Zi? How many years do you think I’ve known you?”
“Qing-Ye, I really—” Before he could finish, Li Shiqing again leaned close to him. His breath fanned over Xiao Li’s face which made him immediately go silent.
Li Shiqing didn’t budge, taking in his features. “Are you blaming me?”
Xiao Li looked at him suspiciously.
“The promise that you’ve made was to always obey and never betray no matter what, but you’ve never said you won’t leave. When your brother attended a university in another province, I thought you would take advantage of it and leave as well.” Li Shiqing lowered his voice, “I kept my guard up for a long time, but still you didn’t make any move. Then he went abroad and once again, I thought you would leave the gang, but instead, it was in that year that you helped me gain control of both the major territories in the Eastern region. I don’t understand, why now? What happened for you to want to leave the gang…for you to want to leave me?”
Xiao Li remained silent.
“Are you blaming me?” Li Shiqing sighed, “That day, Yan Ming accidentally said something, that I yield to Lu Wu. Are you blaming me for not rescuing your brother from Lu Wu or are you blaming me for using Han Jia to do business with Lu Wu ?” He suddenly smiled, “No wonder you tried to throw your life away by running to Lu Wu’s territory. You’re clever. You must think that it’ll be the same as the last two times – that I wouldn’t dare let Lu Wu get a hold of any information that can be used against me and I wouldn’t dare take you back from his grip then, right?”
Xiao Li finally spoke, “Qing-Ye, you’re thinking too much.”
“You don’t have to lie to me. You didn’t even want your life when you went to save Han Jia. How can you not be blaming me?” Li Shiqing slowed now his words, “But you should also understand my position. A small disturbance should not mess up a grand plan. There’s no benefit for the gang to oppose Lu Wu but,” he touched the scar on Xiao Li’s face, “You’re different.”
Looking at the darkness in his eyes, Xiao Li was hit with a hint of fear that was impossible for him to evade. Li Shiqing had pressed down on his body, caressing his neck and kissing his lips.
Although Xiao Li had regained some strength, his posture made it impossible for him to avoid anything – all he could do was clenched his teeth and passively resisted.
Noting this, Li Shiqing laughed with disdain. Both his hands pressed hard on either side of Xiao Li’s cheekbones. Xiao Li could feel a sharp pain digging into his nerve as his mouth was forced open without his approval before it was assaulted by Li Shiqing’s tongue.
Li Shiqing was an experienced person, but when his breathing became heavy, his excitement was obvious. His tongue swam in Xiao Li’s mouth, changing methods to tease him. Xiao Li’s chin was held firmly, making it hard for him to swallow. When he heard Li Shiqing’s groan emerged without restraint and the enjoyment on his face, Xiao Li’s brows twisted tightly as he struggled to get free.
While the two was entangled, with one struggling and the other trying to maintain control, a very uncomfortable cough sounded from the other side of the room.
When Li Shiqing unwillingly picked his head up for a look, Yan Ming was at the side of the door, deliberately wearing a face of disbelief. He lifted the phone up into the air. “Uncle, I’m not intentionally spoiling your fun but Lu Wu wants his reward for lending his people out to assist you.”
Li Shiqing snorted, “You best not forget that for your sake, I had to compensate Lu Wu with one of my territories.” He exerted his strength into his hands, and without avoiding Yan Ming’s gaze, he bit Xiao Li’s lips. “As soon as I get back from the other province, move here.”
With that, he got up to leave, Yan Ming wanted to follow him, but Li Shiqing waved his hand and instructed him” “You can stay here and accompany Xiao Li. Don’t let him run around.”
Yan Ming saw him off as a formality. Xiao Li slowly moved his limbs around and sat up from the sofa. He immediately wiped his lips with the back of his hand in disgust, however, he was unable to wipe away the shameful feeling that lingered – he wanted nothing more than to rush out and rinse his mouth. Just as he was able to control his legs and stood up, Yan Ming returned.
Yan Ming stood near the door and fished out a small box of cigarette, looking at him with a questioning glance. When Xiao Li shook his head to decline, Yan Ming lit a stick of cigarette for himself. The cigarette hung in his mouth as he looked around and went to sit opposite of Xiao Li.
This time, there was no cynical expression lining his face, instead, it was replaced with a type of gloomy, self-confidence – surprisingly similar to that of Li Shiqing’s.
He let out a puff of smoke and looked at Xiao Li through it. “If only you had done it with me, you wouldn’t have to suffer this kind of anger.”
With a wooden expression, Xiao Li turned away.
Yan Ming snorted, “My unlucky Uncle still thinks that you went to seek death because you want to leave the gang. Tsk, even if he was told the truth, I’m afraid he still won’t believe it.”
Xiao Li stood up again and coldly said, “If there’s nothing else, I’ll be leaving first.”
“Do whatever you want.” Yan Ming inhaled, “As long as you’re in the city when my uncle returns, that’s good enough.” He gave a malicious smile, followed by the sound of laughter, “By the time he returns, I’m afraid your surname will also be the same as his. Hahaha.”
Paying no attention to his implication, Xiao Li slowly walked toward the door. He heard Yan Ming’s harsh voice throughout the room again. “Since you’re not willing to do it with me, you better control your mouth well, understand what you should say and shouldn’t say. You also know that your brother… to simply put it, is a huge target.”
Xiao Li’s mouth was tense as he walked out of Li Shiqing’s villa.
The sky outside was gloomy, the air was stuffy as if a huge rainstorm was lurking about – just waiting to pour at any given moment. He lowered his head and continued to walk underneath the lingering shadows of the dark clouds, and although his strength was gradually returning, his steps became slower instead.
A burst of warm wind blew by, bringing him to a stop. He felt around the inner pockets of his suit, pulled out his phone and turned it on. With just one name in mind, he dialed a number.
The ringtone came to a stop, he could hear his own voice – hoarse and beaten.
“Answer the phone, answer the phone, answer the phone…”
Qi Xiuyuan had thrown his phone somewhere after receiving Susu’s call. He hastily rushed to her but by the time he arrived, there was no one in the phone booth. It did not take long for him to feel as if he was being swallowed by panic as he jumped out of the taxi and searched around the area.
The sky seemed to burn an angry dark color, bringing with it a stuffy depressing feeling – a warning of the pending downpour that would crush all that roam outside. There were not many pedestrians out at this time. Qi Xiuyuan grabbed two people walking by and asked if they had seen a girl dressed like Susu. Letting their guard up, they looked him up and down and shook their head.
He continued walking along the quiet road in search of any signs of her. After some time, he saw a glimpse of Susu’s shadow in a narrow street a distant away. There was a hand stretching out from a black car parked at the side of the road pulling Susu’s hand as if trying to yank her inside while Susu was struggling against the attacker.
“Susu!!” Qi Xiuyuan shouted, running toward her.
When the person inside the car saw him at such a speed, he released Susu causing her to fall heavily onto the ground. By the time Qi Xiuyuan was close enough, the car had already driven off.
Qi Xiuyuan couldn’t stop the car; he tried to help Susu who was paralyzed on the ground, however, having suffered such an experience her face was deathly pale as she trembled in fear.
Seeing her in this state, Qi Xiuyuan anxiously picked her up and helped her walk. Once they made it to a street with more people around, he hailed a taxi and they went straight to the hospital.
During the ride, Susu’s eyes were wide open as she stared at nothing in particular. The only thing that one could possibly make out was fear – fear that made firmly gripped her brother’s shirt, refusing to let go. When Qi Xiuyuan asked her what happened, she remained silent.
Her emotional state became a bit better while they were at the hospital. After her checkup, the doctor informed that Susu was under extreme shock which had caused her heart to beat irregularly. He gave her sedative to calm her before calling Qi Xiuyuan outside the room, telling him that patients who suffer extreme shock can be afflicted with physiological harm, so it was necessary to pay close attention. Afterward, Qi Xiuyuan returned to the room but upon seeing Susu on the patient bed with her head hung low, he couldn’t help but blame himself.
He walked over, caressed her hair and softly said a few words to her. Susu answered obediently, unwilling to listen to anything that had to do with the black car. The sedative soon kicked in and Susu’s consciousness began to wan into fuzziness. Qi Xiuyuan let out a sigh of relieve and placed her on his back, carrying her out of the hospital.
In the taxi on their way, Qi Xiuyuan could feel the tiring strain of having been dragged around for nearly the entire day crashed down on him. Before his life with his sister was simple with no complaints, let alone enemies that held grudges against them. Recently, the only two suspicious people that he had encountered were Sun Zeyu and Li Shiqing.
If Sun Zeyu wanted to kidnap Susu in order to threaten him as to make him keep his mouth shut, wouldn’t that action alarm the Ministry of Public Security and affect his position? If it was Li Shiqing’s doing, could it be that something happened to Xiao Li and he was somehow implicated which in turn caused Susu to be involved? In that case, if he were to report this to the police, wouldn’t it infuriate Li Shiqing even more and put Xiao Li at a disadvantage?
His mind wandered as he searched his pocket wanting to call Sun Zeyu only to realize that it was missing – he recalled how he had panicked earlier, tossing it randomly. He looked at his sister’s sleeping face, blaming himself for the cause of his sister’s suffering. He couldn’t help but feel a throbbing sensation strike his chest as thoughts of Xiao Li swam into his mind. For many days, he had been worried about Xiao Li, wondering over and over again whether he was safe now.
Obviously, Sun Zeyu had said those words to toy with him – intending to take the anger that he had toward him and direct it at Xiao Li instead. Then there was Li Shiqing who early on had harbored those malicious feelings toward Xiao Li. Now, Qi Xiuyuan did not have the courage to guess the kinds of torment Xiao Li could be facing. He clenched his teeth and pushed away from the thoughts that could drag him further into the depth of anxiety.
By the time the car stopped in front of their place, the rain had sprinkled down from the night sky, taking over the city. Qi Xiuyuan pulled his sister close and rushed toward the stairs. As he walked up, all his thoughts were flying from one corner to the next in search of what to do.
Since he had Han Jia’s contact information inside, he could get in touch with him and find Li Shiqing’s address, then…he can ask a friend to come by to look after his sister. He must… he must find Xiao Li himself, but if Xiao Li was not at Li Shiqing’s, and instead, trapped elsewhere… if he were to appear and cause Xiao Li more misfortune, if…
As the light near the stairs illuminated along with the sound of his footsteps, Qi Xiuyuan subconsciously raised his head. He halted, his foot glued to the ground as he stared blankly ahead.
Xiao Li was leaning against the wall near the door with a cigarette hanging loosely between his fingers. His head hung low in contemplation of something only he knew. When the lights lit up, his head rose. The second he saw Qi Xiuyuan, a warm expression painted across his face, his chest moved just the slightest – revealing the obvious relieve that filled him.
Letting his eyes capture the image of the lone figure in front of him, Qi Xiuyuan could not find any strength to move. His sister’s weight weighed on his back still.
Xiao Li’s silhouette appeared even more distinct – the accumulation of fear, uneasiness, anxiety and the blame that had long crushed him suddenly vanished like smoke into thin air. He smiled and felt a surge of courage rushed into his body once more, so much so that he could deal with any challenge ahead.