When Qi Xiuyuan entered Xiao Li’s sick ward, the five or six people talking in there quiet down instantly. Unsurprisingly, all their eyes swept toward the bouquet of flowers in his hand.
“This…” Qi Xiuyuan couldn’t help but give an explanation. “The doctor did say that you have to detoxify the poison in your body, so you can only eat the food the hospital prepared for the next few days. That’s why I didn’t buy any food…”
Hearing that, several of the gang members’ expression twisted as they had brought food.
“How did you know I was hospitalized here?” Xiao Li gave Qi Xiuyuan a meaningful glance.
Qi Xiuyuan was perplexed, but then he quickly responded with a smile. “Of course, it’s because someone had told me.”
Having said that, he went to place the bouquet of flowers on the table beside the bed.
“Qin Laoshi, you’re so romantic!” Han Jia suddenly spoke, “But since you’re so polite this time, is there something else you want to trouble Xiao Li with?”
Qi Xiuyuan didn’t bother to give him a glance. “My surname is Qi.”
“Don’t try to deceive anyone, isn’t your surname Qin, Qin the cruel beast?”21 Han Jia smirked then laughed – laughter suddenly broke out in the room as the group of gangsters laughed.
“That’s enough. Go do what you have to now. I’ll talk to Qi Laoshi for a moment.”
When Xiao Li said those words, everyone bid farewell and took their leave. The last to leave was Han Jia. He gave Qi Xiuyuan a meaningful glanced before leisurely walked out.
Qi Xiuyuan let out a sigh of relief and sat in the chair beside Xiao Li.
“Qi Laoshi, the fewer people that know you saved me yesterday the better,” Xiao Li said. “I’ll also tell Han Jia clearly—”
“Actually, I don’t mind that,” Qi Xiuyuan said as he looked at him and laughed. “Why are you still using such a respectful term to address me?”
Xiao Li said sternly, “Qi Laoshi since you saved and took care of me, I’m very grateful to you. In accordance with our rules, with just one word from you, Xiao Li’s life can be given in exchange for yours.”
Qi Xiuyuan stared at him. “I’m a schoolteacher, what would I need your life for?”
Those words left Xiao Li dumbfounded.
Seeing Xiao Li with that appearance, Qi Xiuyuan was actually quite happy. “I saved you because I respect you and consider you a friend. If you also consider me a friend, then don’t use those respectful terms. What do you think?”
Xiao Li frowned and did not utter another word.
After waiting a moment and seeing that Xiao Li wasn’t responding, Qi Xiuyuan asked, “You don’t believe when I said that I consider you a friend?”
Xiao Li looked at him, “Qi Laoshi, I became a street gangster when I was fifteen. I don’t have any education, knowledge or accomplishments, how could someone like you respect me?”
There was an air of comfort between them as Qi Xiuyuan smiled faintly. “If I say that I truly wanted to be your friend when I invited you to dinner at the River of Hope Teahouse that time, will you not really believe me?”
A smile also appeared on Xiao Li’s face. “Qi Laoshi, would you believe it if you were me?”
Qi Xiuyuan lowered his head in contemplation. He suddenly spoke, “When you were fifteen you became a gangster. When I was fifteen, I was living with my family in Feng Long County.”
Xiao Li did not know what he said that for. He simply looked at him with suspicion.
However, Qi Xiuyuan did not look at him and continued to say, “A long time ago, there was a gang called the ‘Feng Long Gang’ in Feng Long County. Have you heard of it before?”
Letting his memories worked its way, Xiao Li then said, “There was a gang there that was established by some older seniors. I heard they opened a casino in that area and the leader was called ‘Du Yan San Ge’.
Qi Xiuyuan laughed. “Later on, the Feng Long Gang was eradicated, and its members scattered as fugitives. Feng Long’s leader was the first to take the lead and surrendered. He was imprisoned for twenty years. When he was finally released, his son was married and had a child.”
He raised his head to looked at Xiao Li and said slowly, “He’s my grandfather.”
Xiao Li returned his gaze with a pair of stunned eyes. There was a calm silence between them that seemed to uncoil the differences between their labels. Soon, Xiao Li spoke. “No wonder you weren’t afraid of me since the beginning.”
Qi Xiuyuan, “My grandfather was a really good man who adored me and Susu. When he was released, he was already in his fifties. But, even then, plenty of people often came to try and drag him into their gang. He never agreed to any of them, but he was nevertheless polite to them. He often said to me, ‘the path they walk may be different from ours, but they are humans just like us’.”
Xiao Li was speechless.
Letting his eyes stay on Xiao Li, Qi Xiuyuan spoke again. “Now, if I say that I respect you and want to be your friend, do you believe me?”
Xiao Li looked at him and revealed a smile.
Qi Xiuyuan had never seen him smile like this before. He only thought that the brightness in his eyes had ignited a spark in his own heart.
Then he heard Xiao Li say, “Qi Xiuyuan, you’re a very interesting person.”
21 The character ‘秦’ [Qín] is written with the same tonal mark as the character “禽” [qín] from the characters ‘禽兽’ [qínshòu] meaning creature/beast. Subsequently, [Qí] from Qí Xiū Yuǎn’s surname has the same tonal and also sounds really similar to ‘Qín’.
Also, the surname ‘Qín’ belonged to Qín Shi Huangdi [First Chinese Emperor]: known as a cruel ruler who readily killed or banished those who opposed him or his ideas. He is notorious for burning virtually all the books that remained from previous regimes. He even banned scholarly discussions of the past. So, in turn, Han Jia is saying that Qi Xiuyuan, like Qin Shi Huangdi, causes trouble to others.