When Qi Xiuyuan was detained by a bunch of gangsters and dragged into a room, there was a man standing in front of a French-style window with a phone pressed closely against his ear, likely in the middle of discussing an important matter seeing as how he was there alone.
With a glance, Qi Xiuyuan quickly surmised that the man was probably not that ‘virtuous’. However, being someone that did not like to jump to a conclusion about someone’s character, Qi Xiuyuan began to secretly evaluate him. Even though the man’s tall and slender build was adorned with a western-style suit, it was still impossible to conceal the dark and sinister air that seemed all too willing to weave into his silhouette. A pair of dark shaded sunglasses hid his eyes which made it hard to see his expression, but the contours of his strong and intrepid face was visible.
As Qi Xiuyuan tried to pick up on the conversation. He noted a dark aura looming clandestinely above the man though his voice was surprisingly pleasant to the ear. It was deep yet smooth and steady, and if truth be told, it was charming – alluring even. It was a pity that…
“Then chop off one of his arms and legs… do it quickly… no, I have other matters to attend to today. Yeah, just let Shou Zi come tomorrow instead.”
Once those grotesque words were said, he turned around. It was then that Qi Xiuyuan caught sight of a long scar along the other side of his face that started close to the side of his forehead and ran almost to the corner of his eye and swept beneath his ear.
“Qi Laoshi1, you’re finally here.” The man said and walked toward him with bold steps while reprimanding his subordinates.
“Is this how you handle things? Why haven’t you loosened your grips? Didn’t I tell you to kindly invite Qi Laoshi over?!”
At those words, the strength of the grips on Qi Xiuyuan’s arms quickly disappeared. But feeling grim, he couldn’t help but sneer at the person approaching him.
Upon closer look, Qi Xiuyuan thought with certainty that the man’s attitude was remarkably similar to Hatoyama2 of the Legend of the Red Lantern3 who captured Li Yuhe4 and pretended to be extremely benevolence and friendly toward her.
Just as Qi Xiuyuan let his mind wander off for a moment, the man had already stopped in front of him with his right hand extended out towards him.
“Hello, Qi Laoshi. I’m Xiao Yang’s brother, Xiao Li.”
“I can guess,” Qi Xiuyuan ignored his hand. “Mr. Li, what did you invite me here for?”
‘Invited‘, hearing that word said in such a serious and willful tone, Xiao Li was somewhat taken aback. But soon after, he seemed to have become a bit embarrassed. He let out a few awkward coughs, followed by a long sigh. Then to Qi Xiuyuan’s surprise, Xiao Li started to explain himself.
“Qi Laoshi, I’m very sorry. It’s true that I wanted to invite you over, but my men misunderstood my intentions. Please forgive me.”
Qi Xiuyuan grunted as an answer which unintentionally provoked a light chuckle from Xiao Li. Once he regained his composure, Xiao Li pulled back his unshakened right hand and placed it back into the side pocket of his trousers.
Afterward, he said: “Yesterday, Susu called and said—”
“Please address her surname as well,” Qi Xiuyuan immediately interrupted.
“Yesterday, Ms. Qi Susu called me. She wanted to break up with Xiao Yang and said that you didn’t want her to associate with a dangerous gangster’s brother.” He paused with what seemed to be a hint of annoyance in his tone. “Xiao Yang is my only brother and I don’t want him to be unhappy because of me. Qi Laoshi, we’re both someone’s older brother, please understand my position. Can we sit down for a chat?”
Qi Xiuyuan silently scrutinized him then coldly said, “What if I don’t agree?”
Xiao Li was slightly shocked at the straightforward remark while Qi Xiuyuan smiled grimly.
“Mr. Xiao, was the call just now meant for me to hear? It’s quite impressive honestly. If I don’t agree, are you going to chop off one of my arm and leg as well?”
“Qi, Qi Laoshi, you’ve misunderstood.” Xiao Li stammered to answer, finally understanding what he meant. “That was only a coincidence. There’s no other meaning behind it, please don’t take it seriously.”
The corner of Qi Xiuyuan’s lips rose as he continued to be fastidious about every word Xiao Li said. “Mr. Xiao, don’t you think it’s impolite to talk to someone with sunglasses on?”
Xiao Li was hesitant for a moment before he reached over to remove his sunglasses.
“Li-ge.”5 One of his subordinates called out and took a step forward to stop him.
However, Xiao Li signaled for him to step back with a wave of his hand then removed his sunglasses and explained: “Qi Laoshi, my eyes suffered a small injury two days ago which made them sensitive to the light. I’m not trying to disrespect you in any way.”
Xiao Li’s eyes were red with a wisp of blood, and the array of bruises that scattered along the outer rim reached the corner of that terrible scar. Truthfully, anyone would tremble in fear at first glance.
But even then, the expressions in his eyes were still sharp and clear. If one were to disregard that scar, Xiao Li was an unexpectedly handsome man.
Seemingly absent-minded again, Qi Xiuyuan sobered up and quickly averted his eyes.
“Qi Laoshi, I don’t any formal education, knowledge, or accomplishments. If I did something wrong to offend you, please pardon me. I only want to have a proper discussion with you about Xiao Yang and Su… Qi Susu’s matter. They…”
“Okay,” Qi Xiuyuan interrupted again but this time, his tone was a bit more relaxed. “Where are we going to talk? You don’t want to talk standing here, do you?”
1 Qi Laoshi – lǎoshī means teacher
2 Hatoyama (or Jiūshān in Chinese) – chief of the Japanese gendarmerie (military police)
3 The Legend of the Red Lantern – one of the Eight model plays, the only operas and ballets permitted during the Cultural Revolution in China. From 1966 till 1976 these plays were played in Chinese opera to foster the ideals of communism and to facilitate the avowed goal of social reforms.
The play is based on a movie titled There Will be Followers (自有后来人) made in 1963, which is based a novel titled, There Will be Followers of Revolution (革命自有后来人) by Qian Daoyuan (钱道源) first published in 1958. The novel in turn, is based on a true story of communist undercover agents working at a Huicui (辉崔) railway station in Hulin, fighting the Japanese invaders during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
4 Li Yuhe – a female railroad worker who engaged in secret underground work
5 Ge – used to address older male brother, friends, etc, or someone of higher status.