“He can’t be released from custody due to a pending investigation?” Li Shiqing coldly repeated.
“After a urination inspection, it was concluded that Xiao Li had not taken the drugs, but he is suspected of dealing and trafficking.” The person speaking was a highly experienced lawyer name Wang Wensi who had been working together with the gang for quite a long time. “Individuals who are under a pending investigation are not permitted to be released until further notice.”
“Have you met with him yet?”
“Mr. Zhou, our other lawyer, met with him this morning,” Wang Wensi, pushing his eyeglasses up. He then gave Li Shiqing a glance, “For the past two years, the neighboring provinces have been extremely strict in their control on drugs trafficking, anyone caught with or smuggling drugs has been relentlessly pursued and taken down. The authority figures would do their best to get to the heart of the matter and would attempt to capture all the dealers and traffickers in one go. From the look of it, the days ahead for Xiao Li doesn’t look too good.”
Li Shiqing snorted, “What did he say?”
“He said he received it from Lin Yong and didn’t have enough time to handle it properly, at that time, he didn’t think that it wasn’t going to be a problem. Who’d imagined that during his ride back on the expressway, he was pulled over and interrogated.” Wang Wensi paused then went on to say, “But during his interrogation, he insisted that it was purchased in that province and not here. Aside from that, he has absolutely no idea of what’s going on. He was interrogated quite harshly to the point of exhaustion.”
When Li Shiqing did not say anything, Wang Wensi gave Yan Ming who was standing to the side a glance before continued. “If we’re to take the normal legal procedures, I should be able to fight it so that he would only have to serve three years or less of imprisonment. But in drugs-related crimes, the chances of getting probation is slim to none.” He looked at Li Shiqing whose silence seemed to make him felt a bit weak. “I’ll try my best to do what I can. What’s more, Qing-Ye, not only do you have a tremendous amount of power in this region, good karma is also on your side, so even if we don’t follow the normal legal procedures, I assumed that it shouldn’t be a huge problem.”
Li Shiqing nodded, “I know. I’ll be troubling you this time. Yan Ming, help me see Mr. Wang out.”
Once Yan Ming led Wang Wensi out, he returned to find Li Shiqing standing beside the windows with his brows screwed tightly together as if lost in his own thoughts. “Uncle, Lin Zi is still kneeling outside, how should I handle this?”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with him,” Li Shiqing said, “It’s Xiao Li’s own stupidity.”
Yan Ming’s smirk grew into the sound of laughter, “Oh! Uncle, you actually realized this.”
He walked out, told Lin Zi that there was no need to kneel anymore and that he should return home. But thinking that he had made a huge mistake, Lin Zi dared not get up and kept his knees on the floor. Looking at his tough and stocky build yet timid and gutless appearance, Yan Ming laughed and gave Lin Zi a kick to drive him away and then went back inside.
Li Shiqing was in the same position. Yan Ming strutted toward the sofa and leaned back against it, “I’ve truly underestimated him. This bastard brought Han Jia back and sent his younger brother away. With those done, there’s nothing else for him to worry about and he can start to destroy all the bridges that he had crossed to get this far. The drugs, the territory under Lu Wu’s control…tsk. Uncle, tell me, how long do you think he’s been planning all of this?”
Somewhat lost in thoughts, Li Shiqing turned to glance at him, speaking expressionlessly: “When his brother went abroad, I thought that he would seize the opportunity to leave the gang.”
“But he didn’t.” Yan Ming seemed to understand something and started to laugh heartily, “So you thought you still had a chance? Did you think that he won’t be able to escape your grasp?”
When Li Shiqing went to sit on the sofa in front of him, Yan Ming’s laughter vanished, and he assumed an upright position.
“I even thought that he would always remain in the gang until the day I die, or he dies.” Li Shiqing whispered to himself as if contemplating something difficult. “What exactly happened? Now, why would he…”
Yan Ming snorted with disdain, “Uncle, I really can’t stand you. Even if he stayed in the gang until he died, let me ask you, when will you put your hands down? It’s because you’ve always spoiled him and never wanted to force him that made him so undisciplined and out of control like this. How are things now? He even has the nerve to play with you!! From the way I see it, he wants to use those couple of years in prison to atone for his past actions.” He leaned in closer and smiled maliciously, “His plan is reasonable. Uncle, you’re 40 years old this year. Xiao Li is definitely thinking that by the time he gets out, you won’t be able to use your ‘buddy’ down there anymore.”
Just as Yan Ming finished that sentence, Li Shiqing’s cold gaze swept toward him. The feeling was unsettling to the point that he could feel a gust of cold air wrapping him up from head to toe, causing him to immediately resume his previous position and fall into silence.
After a long while and Li Shiqing was still wordless, Yan Ming eventually found it unbearable to sit with such a heavy atmosphere. “Uncle, right now you only have three choices.”
Li Shiqing’s eyelids rose toward him. “Tell me.”
“The first is to let me kill him. Even if that province is Lu Wu ’s territory, sending or hiring someone over there to kill Xiao Li is actually quite simple; this is the gang’s personal matter, Lu Wu won’t care about it.” The corner of Yan Ming’s lips drew back into a smile, “The fewer people in the gang that know about this the better – letting me go is the best option.”
A cold ray of light flashed across Li Shiqing’s eyes as if he was considering this suggestion.
“The second is to let him go and forget about it.” Yan Ming leaned back into the sofa, “Uncle, you’re not ruthless enough to be heartless anyways. You don’t have the heart to kill him or touch him. After all these years, Xiao Li has also made a lot of contributions to us. You can take it as you’ve lost your mind and put forth some good deeds or perhaps, take it as you’re giving him a high wage and just act as if you don’t know him anymore from this day on.”
Li Shiqing shot him a glance, “And the third?”
“The third choice is my favorite,” Yan Ming said, rubbing his chin, causing a subtle smile that was nearly unnoticeable to appear. “You can press your luck and find Lu Wu. It’s not the first time you’ve yielded to him anyways. Get Xiao Li out of there, break his arms and legs and lock him up in a room. Then you can play with him however you want, however long you want and if you want it to be even more pleasurable, your sister’s son here still has some drugs rig—”
“What did you just say?” Li Shiqing interrupted him.
“Uh, you can play however you want.”
“The sentence about Lu Wu.”
Yan Ming thought, “I said, you can press your luck and find Lu Wu. It’s not the first time you’ve yielded to him anyways.”
Li Shiqing’s brows knitted again as he gloomily muttered some words to himself. Then he loudly called for one of his men to come over, instructed him to drive the car over and prepared a large sum of money as bribery.
Without warning, Li Shiqing got up and gave Yan Ming another glance. “Help me set up a meeting with Sun Tingzhang,27 rely on his reputation to get in touch with Lu Wu.”
Originally, Sun Zeyu worked in the Ministry of Public Security Department in the nearby province. At that time, he had always collaborated with Lu Wu, after he was promoted and became Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Lu Wu, in turn, has never forgotten his old friend and benefactor, and would personally visit his home to express his gratitude as well as enhance their connection.
In regard to Sun Zeyu, Li Shiqing had always admired him because in those days, he was able to single-handed shield Lu Wu and now, he was also able to shield him. Equally matching that, Sun Zeyu was an expert at seeking Li Shiqing out to put on airs as well as play bureaucratic games with at him. But this time, when Yan Ming called to make an appointment with him, he was, on the contrary, exceptionally happy.
“6:30 at Jin Ting, right? Okay,” Sun Zeyu said carelessly. “No, no, there’s no need to. I have a chauffeur.” He closed the phone and put it away.
He picked up the teacup for a sip and spoke coldly to the person sitting in front of him. “A man who is never content is like a snake trying to swallow an elephant. Qi Laoshi, there’s no need for me to explain this reasoning to you, is there?”
This small tearoom was in one of the city’s most expensive teahouse, the interior had an elegant décor that gave off an ancient feeling, unfortunately, the two guests’ mood spoilt it.
Sun Zeyu refused to speak while in a gloomy and irascible mood, even Qi Xiuyuan who sat in front of him had on a seemingly sick complexion.
“Sun Tingzhang, you’re retiring soon, right?” There was a touch of deathly coldness in Qi Xiuyuan’s voice, “If you don’t uphold your integrity now, aren’t you afraid of meeting people who will ridicule you and cause you to live a miserable and dreary life in your old age?”
Sun Zeyu gave him a glance and laughed grimly, “Well, okay, okay. You want to blackmail me anyways. There are just two years left for that. Tell me, what are you up to this time?”
“Looking for happiness.” Qi Xiuyuan faintly smiled, “There’s a man name Xiao Li in this city’s gang faction. Have you heard of him?”
Sun Zeyu thought only for a second, “The gang leader of the Eastern region, of course, I’ve heard of him.”
Qi Xiuyuan looked down at the teacup in his hands, “This person was recently arrested in the nearby province. I believe you have a way to get him out of there without any injury.”
Sun Zeyu muttered to himself irresolutely then spoke, “That’s not too difficult to handle.”
“After he returns, he wants to break away from the underworld. If you personally show up and speak with Li Shiqing, it shouldn’t be difficult either, right?”
Sun Zeyu look at him curiously, his voice cold one more. “Qi Laoshi, aren’t your demands too excessive, huh? The rabbit is anxious, yet he still wants to bite someone? Do you see me, Sun Zeyu, like a rabbit that can be slaughtered or taken advantage of that easily?” He sipped a mouthful of tea and continued to speak in an unhurried manner, “To be safely released or break away from the underworld, I can only manage one. You can choose which one yourself.”
Qi Xiuyuan lifted his head slightly upon hearing those unpleasurable words – the stern and grim expression that dwelled in his eyes confronted the ones before him. He didn’t dodge the coldness and instead allowed a smile that almost turned into a laughter to grace his lips.
“6:30 at Jin Ting? Li Shiqing wants to meet up with you, doesn’t he?”
Sun Zeyu was dumbfounded for a moment.
Qi Xiuyuan continued, “Li Shiqing also wants to get Xiao Li out of there. It’s inevitable that he’ll present you with a large sum of money. Sun Tingzhang, you’re a top government official, if you take his money, it’s only natural that you’ll handle things on his behalf. So…” He also drank a mouthful of tea and said unhurriedly, “If Xiao Li were to be safely released that’s because you’re selling Li Shiqing’s reputation, not mine and since you’re going to do it anyway, just seize the opportunity to take Xiao Li away from him. On one hand, you don’t owe him any favors, and on the other hand, your secret will also be kept safe – everything will be done beautifully at the same time. What’s not good about it?”
Sun Zeyu looked at him in silence before giving a fake laugh. “Qi Laoshi, I really don’t understand, why are you recklessly getting friendly with this gang instead of properly teaching in the school? Or could it be that you actually like Han Jia that much? A few days ago, you asked me to save Han Jia, now you want me to save his lover. If they’re inseparable, that certainly doesn’t have anything to do with you.”
“This has nothing to do with you.” Qi Xiuyuan frowned, his gaze sharp and demanding, “It’ll be enough so as long as you remember to make Li Shiqing let Xiao Li go.”
Sun Zeyu snorted, “Then you must also carefully watch over the things in your hand. Don’t forget, I know where your house is.”
Qi Xiuyuan suddenly, thinking that he doesn’t want to stay even a moment longer. “If you have the ability to, then come to find it.”
But before he could stand firmly, a hand rested on his shoulder. The most unfortunate occurrence was that Sun Zeyu happened to be a member of the criminal police department (Interpol) – the strength that he used to pressed down on Qi Xiuyuan’s shoulder made it difficult for him to stand upright. He narrowed his eyes at Qi Xiuyuan, scrutinizing him.
He spoke with disdain and paused in between each word, “You are neither like your father or your mother. How did Qi Feng and Ā-Dān give birth to a son like you?”
Qi Xiuyuan could feel his entire body trembling, he threw Sun Zeyu’s hand off while showing the most despicable, smiling expression he could manage. Then using the same disdainful tone of voice, he counterattacked the man before him.
“You actually have the face to mention these two names?” His ruthless stare stilled the air in the room before he laughed, “You murderer.”
At first, Qi Xiuyuan had intended to keep a calm demeanor until he walked out, but midway out, he sidetracked toward the washroom, unable to no longer tolerate the overwhelming sense of nausea. Both his hands immediately flew out to grip the vanity unit as he retched incessantly.
Disgusting, you talked to that murderer. Disgusting, you had to socialize with him. Disgusting, you had to listen to him mention your parents’ name with that tone while ridiculing you. Disgusting, you had to actually blackmail him. Yeah…that’s right, aren’t you the most disgusting of all? Aren’t you the one using your parents’ secret to threaten and indirectly kill their murderer? Aren’t you the one using what you had always avoided in the past for your own benefits? Aren’t you the one using your dead parents’ dignity to fight for your own happiness? You’re the one letting that person expose his despicable gaze to look down on you…you’re the one putting your parents’ name to shame…how disgusting. Qi Xiuyuan, you’re really disgusting!
As Qi Xiuyuan braced the wall and leaned over the vanity unit, the pain that consumed his stomach and heart attacked him relentlessly.
Xiao Li, Xiao Li…
It seemed that only when he silently repeated this name could his despair be alleviated.
Xiao Li, I only want to protect you. I am so powerless and disgusting…I only want to protect you…have you also did this kind of thing? Have you also done something disgusting like this before while hating yourself? Have you also suffered such pain? Then, you…you wouldn’t hate me, would you?…
As those thoughts swarmed his mind, Qi Xiuyuan gasped for air. He turned on the faucet and threw cold water on his own face. His emotions intensified to the point that he needed to urgently calm down before he exploded.
Never had he felt at one moment so close to Xiao Li while at the same moment so far away.
Once he cooled down and tidied himself, he walked out only to discover that his own temperament changed – unconsciously, a kind of apathetic and cold stiffness had appeared and overtaken him. He had seen the same thing appeared on Xiao Li before.
That was, a man deviating from his own values – deviating from everything.