A looming silence accompanied Li Shiqing and Xiao Li as they sat in the back seat of the car on the way back to the city. The driver was a robust man in the prime of his life who had been worked for many years for Li Shiqing. He normally acted as his confidant and personal bodyguard, and although he had strong physical strength, he could also discern body languages. Therefore, he kept silent during the entire ride when he noticed the strange atmosphere.
The car entered the city and Li Shiqing spoke. “Do you know that you’re wrong or not?”
At that moment, Xiao Li was staring out the window at the passing scenery- his mind clearly elsewhere but those words interrupted him. He turned, “I know I’m wrong, Qing-Ye.”
“Where were you wrong?”
“I shouldn’t have disregarded the gang’s position and acted of my own free will.”
“I should’ve grasped the situation beforehand and not taken actions that made Han Jia sustain injuries.”
Li Shiqing turned to look at Xiao Li, his eyes immediately fell on the palm print that swelled his face. He reached out to touch it, letting the heat warm his palm. He sighed, “The last thing that you should have done was to place yourself in such a dangerous situation.”
Xiao Li leaned to the side to avoid the touch. “I’ve broken the rules of the gang, you can punish me, Qing-Ye.”
Li Shiqing did not take away his hand. He continued to look over his own fingertips that lingered on the side of Xiao Li’s face. He suddenly asked, “When you went to save Han Jia, you never intended to come back alive, did you?”
Xiao Li was wordless, Li Shiqing did not force him to answer. His hand simply retreated, “You’ve indeed disobeyed me this time. If I don’t punish you, people will say that Qing-Ye doesn’t know how to handle his men. Head back by yourself and check things out. Take half of the Eastern territory and hand it over to Yan Ming.”
The car came to a slow stop once they arrived at Xiao Li’s place. Xiao Li was about to get out when Li Shiqing suddenly grabbed his hand. “Xiao Li, what we talked about before. You should think it over carefully.”
Xiao Li withdrew his hand, “Qing-Ye, I’ll take my leave first.”
During the entire exchange, he did not turn his head around to look at the car and soon it started to move. A willful smile tugged at Li Shiqing’s lips – he looked at the hand that had just gripped Xiao Li’s and then took out his cellphone to make a call. The call tone rang for a quite a while before it went through and the person on the other side managed to grunt out ‘hello’. It was a rather lazy voice, quite possibly annoyed as the call might have interrupted something good.
“Yan Ming, Xiao Li violated the gang’s rule. I told him to give half of the Eastern territory to you. Remember to get in contact with him.”
The other side went silent and then the sound of laughter came through.
“Only half, Uncle?” Yan Ming’s continued to laugh in between words, “I thought you’ve finally lost control and fuck him already. Really now, if you had fucked him up back then, it wouldn’t be like this now.”
“Wouldn’t be like this?” Li Shiqing lean back comfortably against the seat. “There is nothing to be done if it’s like this. All these years, he has done his best to climb the ladder. The higher his position, the more useful he is. Does this make you even more worried?”
“Do you think I can’t do anything about it?”
Li Shiqing faintly smiled, “Xiao Li is useful. But then again, when have I lacked useful subordinates? If I really want to force him into a corner, there are plenty of ways for me to do it.”
“Then that’s something I don’t understand well… don’t tell me, you want him to willingly submit?” Yan Ming paused and a mischievously sounded. “Perhaps, if someone with an outer appearance like him were to accept willingly, I think he will…”
“Do you really understand?” Li Shiqing looked at that same hand again, lightly rubbing his fingers together – declining to say anything else.
“No, no, I don’t understand anything.” Yan Ming seemed shocked by the underlying message of his tone. He quickly said, “Anyways, I’m not like you Uncle. You devour both men and women alike. I’m not fond of that so what would I know, huh? Let’s talk about the main topic. The Eastern territory that you spoke of, what do you plan to do with it? If you plan on giving it back to him in the future, I’ll have to mentally prepare for it.”
“Use it like you had before.” Li Shiqing laughed, “Let’s see how capable you are.”
Once Xiao Li arrived home, something felt strange when he unlocked the door. Once he walked in, he saw the shadow of someone sitting upright on the sofa.
“Xiao Yang?” He asked, a bit surprised.
Xiao Yang stared at him as soon as he entered the door. He sighed, “Didn’t you give me a spare key?”
It was true, Xiao Li had indeed given him the key. At that time, he had just purchased the place with the intention of the two living together, but Xiao Yang adamantly refused, Xiao Li had stubbornly sneaked the key into his pocket. When he asked about it a few days later, Xiao Yang informed him that he had thrown the key away already.
Xiao Li gave Xiao Yang a quick glance, without revealing anything else, he walked over and sat at the seat in front of him. “Is something wrong?”
There was hesitation in Xiao Yang’s eyes, “I want to tell you something. I want to go to work in another province, and the company I’m currently working in can transfer me there.”
“Oh.” Xiao Li couldn’t stay still in his seat, so he went to grab two glasses of water and returned. “You and your girlfriend…”
“It’ll be like that first.” Xiao Yang picked up the glass of water. “Qi da-ge is not willing to let Susu go. We’re still young, there’s a lot of time for us in the future.” He paused, “As long as our feeling doesn’t change, there will eventually be a solution for us.”
“How about I…” Xiao Li couldn’t finish when he saw Xiao Yang lift his eyes to look at him. Xiao Li, “When are you leaving?”
“In two days,” Xiao Yang replied, his eyes remained on his brother. “I don’t have any plans to come back here in the future, unless it has something to do with Susu.”
Xiao Li could only nod, “I understand.”
The two remain silent, Xiao Yang looked around the place that he had never stay in before.
“Do you…normally live here alone?” He asked but then as if he was trying to hide something, he immediately added: “Susu told me that when Qi da-ge was here, it was very luxurious with servants and other grand things…”
Hearing such a description, Xiao Li smiled. “It was just a setup. I’ve never talked with an educated or refined person like him before, so I didn’t know what to do to give him a good impression.”
Xiao Yang’s eyes hung low and he whispered: “Thanks…”
Xiao Li was dumbfounded. He wanted to say that there was ‘no need to mention’ it or ‘don’t be too courteous’, but all he could do was pull out a stick of cigarette from his pocket. He tried to light it, but the lighter refused to corporate. With much difficulty, it was finally lit, however, he pressed it against the table and let it die out instead.
Xiao Yang remained silent the whole time as his eyes followed Xiao Li’s actions from start to finish – unable to take the silent, he fished out a bankbook.
“This is the money that you transferred into my account.” He placed the bankbook on the small table between them. “I don’t want it.”
“If I give it to you, just take it.” Xiao Li shift his gaze elsewhere.
Xiao Yang still did not raise his head while his finger gently traced the design on the bankbook – an intense resistance in his voice as he spoke. “You’re blaming me, aren’t you?”
Xiao Li frowned, “What did you say?”
“You transferred so much money, did you plan on not returning?” Xiao Yang controlled himself, “You were going to throw your life away just to save Han Jia? Is he that important to you?”
Xiao Li could only answer back: “He’s my friend.”
“I’ve never liked any of your friends,” Xiao Yang said. “I have also never thought that any of them were truly your friend. I look forward to the day all of them die, one by one. When I gave Han Jia up, I didn’t hesitate at all – not even a bit.”
Hearing such harsh words, Xiao Li couldn’t help but grit his teeth with a slowly rising anger. “Are you done talking? Is there anything else?”
Xiao Li lowered his voice, “I didn’t come here to criticize you. I…I didn’t know how important Han Jia was to you.”
That sentence was almost like an apology in disguise. Xiao Li froze.
“You’re blaming me, aren’t you?” Xiao Yang asked again as he buried his face into his hands seemingly emotionally moved as his voice dropped even lower. “If you’re blaming me, then just tell me! You never say anything! You suddenly join a gang without saying a single word to me and every time you returned covered in blood, the silence remained. I don’t know any of those bastards in your gang. I only knew of Han Jia because he came looking for me himself!” Xiao Yang’s volume slowly increased, “Do you remember that one time I personally saw you beat someone? You were so vicious, just like that person who came to mom’s funeral. I was so scared back then and you obviously saw me standing there to the side but on the way back home, you still didn’t explain anything at all! Xiao Li, have you ever thought of how scared I was? You suddenly changed into such a fearful person, what did you expect me to do?”
Xiao Li kept silent – the memories flooded his head. Xiao Yang stubbornly flinging his hand off; Xiao Yang trying his hardest not to cry. Xiao Yang looking at him with hate and disgust in his eyes. Xiao Yang coldly shutting the door in front of his face, locking him outside. He knew that Xiao Yang was scared, he knew that Xiao Yang was helpless and weak, but he was also helpless. At that time, he was also strangled and trapped by that same agonizing fear. What was worse was that he didn’t even know how to save his own soul.
However, by the time he finally became used to that fear and able to breathe, things had already changed for the worse. Xiao Yang had irrevocably matured into someone who hated him.
All he could do was remain silent or apologize.
He let out a long sigh, “Sorry.”
“I don’t need you to apologize!” Xiao Yang’s loud voice echoed in the room. A flicker of light streamed into his eyes, “I just don’t understand, why haven’t you told me! Even now you…you still haven’t told me! When Susu and I ran off, you were so angry. You hit me. You threatened me. But you still didn’t say anything! Why is it that I always to always hear about your affairs from someone else? Do you think that it’s good to treat me like this? Even as I hated you, how are you still able to be so indifferent about it?”
Xiao Li frowned, “What are you talking about? Who told you about those things?”
Xiao Yang did not directly answer his questions. He only used his sleeves to wipe his eyes, then looked straight at him, “About mom, that old boss of yours and…those things, why have you never talked to me about them? You rather talk about it with a stranger!”
“Qi Xiuyuan?” Xiao Li said intuitively.
Xiao Yang forced a smile and laughed bitterly. “How do you know for sure? Did you only talk to him about it? How long have you known him? Is it longer than I’ve known you? Do you really think I’m that useless? Is it fun making me hate you for all these years? If no one told me, were you going to let me hate you for a lifetime?”
Listening to all those questions come out one by one, Xiao Li suddenly felt stunned, all he could do was let out a sigh – many thoughts swarmed his mind and he tried to search for the correct words to explain himself.
“Those things…I didn’t think too much of them. At that time, I only took one step at a time. In the beginning, it was because you were still young, so I didn’t want you to know. Then I thought that those things were already in the past, there was no need for you to know. Also…I’ve never thought that you were useless. You…your future is brighter than mine.”
He was not accustomed to these kinds of talks but he could no longer bear it. His hand reached out to ruffle Xiao Yang’s hair. “Sorry. I’ve caused you grievance back then.”
Xiao Yang grabbed his hand pressed it firmly against his own cheeks. He was speechless and his voice turned into sobs as he choked in between them trying to steady his breath.
Seeing such a Xiao Yang, Xiao Li felt gratified but also uncomfortable. He had never thought that a day would come where he would receive his younger brother’s understanding. He was momentarily at a loss of what to do. He could feel a portion of his palm sweating as it pressed against Xiao Yang’s cheek and mixed with the tears that flow down. He wanted to get up and grab some tissues, but Xiao Yang’s hold was firm to the point that Xiao Li Xiao could feel some pain creep up his arm.
After he was able to stop his sobbing, he cried out in a low voice, “Brother…”
The moment that word came out, it seems as if the dark prison that he was trapped in was smashed by a strong force. Xiao Yang looked at him, eyes still brimming with tears before his knees dropped to the floor with a loud thud with his hand gripping Xiao Li’s shirt. He shouted in a loud and clear tone full of sentiment:
That cry seemed to tear apart those endless years of loneliness and misunderstandings while at the same time bringing Xiao Li back to the time he enjoyed being called as such – back to the time when their mother was alive. In those carefree and blissful years where he thought that he could do anything, change anything, all for the sake of giving his two most important and beloved family members, honor and happiness.
Xiao Li’s right hand was gripped tightly by Xiao Yang while his left hand covered his own eyes. He sighed and tried to steady his own heartbeats, and after what seemed like ages, he finally calmed down. He moved his hand away from his own face and looked at Xiao Yang who returned a glance, still full of emotions.
Actually, Xiao Li was not good at handling such emotional exchange.
In the end, he simply patted Xiao Yang’s head lightly and scolded him.
“You little bastard, why aren’t you getting up? Do you want to make your brother cry before you can be at ease?”