Title: All things are predestined, and no one can control it
“What are you talking about?” Du Zhen asked in complete amazement. For him amiability begot riches,1 yet now his slightly plump face was sweating, and his eyes were open wide.
His partner, or colleague, or offline—or the person that was a combination of the three identities was not the slightest moved by his consternation as he expressionlessly repeated what he had just said:
“I said, bring the kid back.”
“You must be saying this nonsense with a fever, right?” Du Zhen continued to stare at him, “At that time, you had strongly suggested this. Let me pretend to adopt her, take her back, and allow the bureau to arrange a good place for her. Isn’t that what we agreed to? The higher-ups had officially replied at top speed! At top speed! Now you……”
Zhang Xueming also looked annoyed. He picked up the teacup from the table and took a sip before saying: “This was my miscalculation. I didn’t expect Han Jia to take this matter so seriously. Yesterday, he had even sent out some people to search for the whole day. Today, Xiao Li had an accident so he couldn’t attend to it, but I can’t say for sure if he will keep looking. You also know that he’s very familiar with Zhou Guoshu. If by chance he asks him to help out…… the factions in the bureau, you also know……”
Du Zhen also frowned, and said with dissatisfaction: “What’s wrong with my adoption of that little girl? Why is he looking for her? Don’t tell me that he won’t even let a little girl go?”
Zhang Xueming glanced at him and said succinctly: “He thinks that you are a pervert, and afraid that you will harm that kid.”
Du Zhen froze. After a while he repeated in disbelief: “He thinks that I’m a pervert?”
Zhang Xueming seemed to no longer hold back, and looked at him with a smile: “Don’t you always like to find minors?”
“Laozi2 was specifically investigating underage prostitution! I wasn’t fucking looking for a minor, I… I…” Du Zhen’s face was flushed. “Fuck, he is a pimp. Why care whether or not I’m a pervert? Isn’t it fine just to give him money?”
“I tried,” Zhang Xueming muttered to himself as an answer.
“Unsuccessful?” Du Zhen observed his expression, “How much did you mention to him?”
“Thirty-thousand,” Zhang Xueming said.
Du Zhen remained silent for a few seconds. He had handled similar cases for nearly a decade and knew that such a sick little girl was far from worth so much. In the end he said: “If he is that determined then let him go and waste his time. I rescued this little girl. I can’t just send her back like this. People like Han Jia tend to change their minds after a while and putting the kid in his hand is risky.”
Zhang Xueming had no intention to refute him; he only sighed and said: “Alright, then I’ll go and reveal my identity to Han Jia.”
“Are you crazy?” Du Zhen lashed out. “We have been operating for so many years, and you want to ruin this mission just like this?”
Zhang Xueming said: “Otherwise, he will definitely drive me out of Jin Ting, and the mission will be declared as a failure as well.”
Du Zhen frowned, and after a while, he said: “You’ve been embedded for so long, there’s no one you can use? If he wants to drive you away, you really have no other way?”
Zhang Xueming touched the corner of his mouth where there was a new bruise, and then he whispered: “There was one before… unfortunately, I just offended him not too long ago, and I’ve already used that trick so it can’t be used again this time.”
Du Zhen’s frown tightened as he spoke roughly. “There’s no way I can send the kid back. Who’s going to guarantee that she won’t have an accident in Han Jia’s hand?”
Zhang Xueming stared at him and slowly said: “Guarantee this child, you won’t be able to enter Jin Ting, and my position will be deposed. If the information center that has been established for so many years is destroyed, the efforts of our colleagues will be in vain. Do you really have the heart to do something like that?”
Du Zhen didn’t speak, and Zhang Xueming moved closer to him: “Lao Du, if this mission is successful, Li Shiqing and Lu Wu’s gang will fall apart. A place like Jin Ting will be completely destroyed, and what we save; what we save will be more than a little girl.” He looked at Du Zhen’s eyes, “A little girl who ‘may’ have an accident, and hundreds of boys and girls who will definitely have an accident, and the boys and girls who already had an accident, Lao Du, how do you choose?”
Du Zhen shifted his gaze.
Zhang Xueming sat back, took a sip of tea, and continued: “If you still can’t figure it out, you might as well ask the one above. He had planned this out for years with all his thoughts having been put on this mission. Tell me, what will he instruct you?”
Du Zhen finally moved and looked back at him but asked irrelevant questions instead. “Xin Muran, if the task is completed, what do you intend to do?”
Zhang Xueming looked at him suspiciously and didn’t speak.
Du Zhen said: “I don’t think you will return to the police force anymore. You have changed so much over the years. You have this strange air… you are not a good officer.” He sighed, “That kid… I will take her to Ping’an Park tomorrow morning. Don’t forget to pick her up.”
He got up and put on his hat and glasses then turned away without looking at Zhang Xueming again.
Zhang Xueming waited another twenty minutes before slowly walking out of this fast food restaurant.
When he sat in the car, he turned to look at the passenger seat; there he saw the mobile phone and a cloth bag that Han Jia had dropped.
Yesterday, he had walked for nearly half an hour only to discover that Han Jia had parked the car on the side of the road without taking his mobile phone and things. Who knew where he went to find that kid.
Actually panicking to such an extent.
He took the cloth in his hand and rubbed it gently for a while. This was beyond all his expectations, and even evoked a strange kind of passion that was much more intense than the kind of desire he had to indulge in Han Jia’s appearance and harboring a malicious intent to get on top of him – saying it aloud, the passion would be even more intense.
Perhaps this passion had long existed. When Han Jia mocked him; when Han Jia was sad for Man Li outside of Jin Ting; when Han Jia drove him out of the car like a fool, and even when Han Jia threw a fist at him in anger – this sort of passion had already existed.
He looked up at himself in the rearview mirror and smiled helplessly. As long as he was still Zhang Xueming, he couldn’t have this passion.
He took out his mobile phone and called Jin Ting only to learn that Han Jia did not appear today.
After some thoughts, he decided to go to Han Jia’s apartment to return his mobile phone and notes. Then for the sake of remaining in Jin Ting, he would plead and pledge, and finally tell him that he already had a clue to Man Li’s daughter’s whereabouts.
Thinking of his lines, he went all the way downstairs to Han Jia’s residence. Then he took the elevator and went upstairs, but he felt empty, and Han Jia was not here.
Was he still with Xiao Li in the hospital? Zhang Xueming restrained his slight displeasure and called Lin Zi. Han Jia was not in the hospital.
With doubts and surprises, Zhang Xueming went downstairs again. Before he could walk to the car, Han Jia’s phone began to vibrate, and then the music sounded.
The name of the caller was “Jiang Laoban”, which made Zhang Xueming even more puzzled since he had never heard of this boss.
Just as he was thinking about whether or not to answer, he slightly raised his head and froze.
A handsome young man in a school uniform came over with his cell phone next to his ear as if he was talking. His eyes were very bright; frowning slightly as he glanced in the direction of Zhang Xueming though his eyes swept over him. Then he passed by Xueming Zhang and walked into the apartment building.
This young man had a natural and calm appearance from beginning to end. He hadn’t even glanced at Zhang Xueming’s hand which was holding Han Jia’s mobile phone that was constantly ringing.
He must admit that it was disguised very well, but Zhang Xueming had already recognized the phone since it was originally his phone after all.
Rather than say that Jiang Xiaoning was disappointed with Han Jia, it was better to say that he was afraid.
Although Han Jia had missed his appointment with him on his birthday, and didn’t arrive until the next morning, Jiang Xiaoning had forgiven him once he saw how exhausted and especially pale he looked. But he couldn’t help but think of why Han Jia made himself like that, which man or men had delayed his journey; thinking of those, he couldn’t suppress his own fear at all.
Yes, he dealt with this matter very angrily. He had always used anger to cover up his fears and expectations. The angrier he was, the more scared he became – he knew it very well.
But this matter was not over yet. Han Jia promised to make it up for his birthday and had also called him “Xiaoning”. He had looked at Jiang Xiaoning with that kind of gaze, which simply put, almost made him misunderstand him.
But in the blink of an eye, Han Jia had dropped him for the sake of a call from an unknown man, and even refused to explain it seriously.
Jiang Xiaoning stayed up all night until daybreak; he no longer wanted to stay. After washing up, he straightened out himself and went to school.
As if in a deliberate fit of anger, he acted two to three times as friendly at school. He chatted with his deskmate, promised to lend his MP3 to the boy at the desk in front of him, responded to an invitation of the literary and art committee, and agreed to participate in the textbook play they organized.
Then he thought, Han Jia was right. It was indeed a pleasant thing to be with people of the same age that were happy, bright, and had tones to their life.
But in the depth of his heart, he felt more and more uncomfortable deep. It seemed to be hollow. The more pleasant the conversation he had with his classmates, the bigger the hollowness became, until he could no longer endure it. It was like running away from the desert; the moment classes were dismissed, he rushed to the bus station.
Once he arrived at the building, he called Han Jia. He had thought about it. He wanted Han Jia to appear in twenty minutes, and then he wanted to talk to him, he had to talk to him.
What he didn’t expect was that Han Jia’s phone appeared in the hands of another person. That was the man who had coveted him when he fell asleep. Han Jia had said that he was stupid, but Jiang Xiaoning thought he possessed an astute demeanour.
He didn’t understand the situation at all, so he calmly walked past him, even though his heart was already crimson red by the fire of jealousy.
Why was Han Jia’s phone in someone else’s hand? He had come downstairs, was Han Jia upstairs? What did they do?
Jiang Xiaoning came upstairs and opened the door. The food was still on the table; it was cold, and the color and shape could no longer be seen, but Han Jia was not there.
He frowned and walked to the window and saw that the man was still standing downstairs. A few minutes later, he got into a car and soon disappeared.
Jiang Xiaoning still stood by the window, feeling uneasy for a long time.
It was dark yet he still did not dare to turn on the light.
He was not in the mood to work on his assignment, let alone watch TV or play games. A painful feeling that shouldn’t have appeared on a boy his age made him apprehensive. He went to the living room and curled up in the corner of the sofa.
When the sky became darker and darker, the living room was also shrouded in darkness.
After some unknown time, the sound of the door being unlocked came from the other side of the door.
Jiang Xiaoning looked over and saw Han Jia pushing the door in. He moved very slowly, seeming to adjust to the darkness in the room then he closed the door and took two steps to the right, fumbling with the light switch on the wall.
He fumbled a few times without finding the correct direction, and then he stopped. He put his forearm on his forehead and rested against the wall, looking like a student who was aggrieved by the teacher’s corporal punishment. Then again, he sighed softly.
That sigh was so light, so sad, so beaten.
Jiang Xiaoning couldn’t help but move.
Han Jia was startled and quickly turned to ask, “Who is it?” while, at the same time, searched for the light switch. This time, he found it, and once the light brightened up the space, they appeared in each other’s field of vision.
“Xiaoning?” Han Jia walked over in surprise and crouched beside him. “You were still waiting for me? You… have you eaten yet?”
Jiang Xiaoning stared at him with worry and guilty eyes and didn’t speak.
“Xiaoning, I’m sorry.” Han Jia lowered his voice, “If I had known you were waiting for me, I…”
“It’s okay,” Jiang Xiaoning whispered as he slowly got up.
Han Jia was stunned for a while and watched him without saying anything.
Jiang Xiaoning went on to say: “If you say sorry, I’ll say it’s okay. Before, you had said ‘sorry’ to me so many times, yet I haven’t even said ‘it’s okay’ once.”
“It’s okay.” Han Jia said quickly, and could not help but slightly smile. “I said I’m sorry. I need to make it up. Xiaoning, I prepared a birthday gift for you.”
Jiang Xiaoning sat still with an unchanging expression.
Han Jia asked cautiously, “Xiaoning?”
Jiang Xiaoning looked at him and finally couldn’t bear it any longer. He asked softly: “Han Jia, if I…… if I asked you for the same birthday gift, would you give it to me?”
“I will try my best… why are you crying?” Han Jia appeared a little embarrassed and flustered. He wanted to wipe his tears, but in the end, he didn’t stretch out his hand. He only consoled him: “I will give it to you, no matter how difficult it is. Don’t cry, what do you want?”
Jiang Xiaoning felt the tears blurring his vision, but he tried to look at Han Jia anyways – almost begging him: “Leave Jin Ting, okay?”
Han Jia’s eyes widened. He looked at him for a while before answering: “I’m sorry, Xiaoning.”
“Why?!” Jiang Xiaoning couldn’t hold it in. His tears rushed out even more as he asked with a crying tone: “You have your own house, you have a lot of money, why do you still want to stay there? You’re not a student, you’re an adult. You can protect yourself, you can’t be afraid of them, you can do something else… why still stay there? Why do you want to do that kind of thing every day?……”
He was crying in such a broken-hearted way, yet Han Jia only stood up and took a step back and spoke with a hint of coldness in his voice: “I’m sorry, Xiaoning. I’m a person that when I do something, I will do it to the best I can. And doing this kind of thing, is also the same.”
“I won’t accept this kind of explanation!” Jiang Xiaoning shouted. “What’s the ‘best’ about this kind of thing? …… where did you go today? What is on your neck? Why did you sigh just now? And those times, those times when you come back late, you were never happy! Even if you did your best……. what’s the point?”
“You don’t understand,” Han Jia whispered with difficulty.
“I can’t understand…….” Jiang Xiaoning cried and wiped the tears with the back of his hand, “Han Jia, Han Jia, I just don’t understand…”
He didn’t want to speak to Han Jia this way, but he didn’t know how to express his inner fears and pains at all. He only cried and called Han Jia’s name.
He didn’t want to humiliate himself, but he couldn’t help it. He thought of the words on Han Jia’s back, thought of the man beside Han Jia harboring unfathomable thoughts, the men who made Han Jia pale and bloodless – he couldn’t stop the tears anymore.
Han Jia came over again, knelt beside him, and hugged him in his arms.
“Don’t cry, Xiaoning. Don’t cry like this….” He gently patted Jiang Xiaoning’s back and said in his ear, “I’m not worth it for you to cry this……”
Jiang Xiaoning lay on his shoulder and tried to stop his tears, but choked up more severely: “Han Jia, I’m scared… please, don’t do this kind of thing…”
Han Jia didn’t speak for a long while, and finally whispered, “What are you afraid of?”
I’m afraid that you will get hurt, I’m afraid that you will face retribution, and I’m afraid that one day, I will lose you forever.
Why don’t you want to live under the sun? Live a happy, bright, and colorful life with me, okay? If you are willing, I will never leave you.
But Jiang Xiaoning couldn’t say it. He reached out and tightly hugged Han Jia’s shoulder, unable to say a word.
Han Jia seemed to understand everything. He let Jiang Xiaoning hug him for a while, then reached out to grab Jiang Xiaoning’s arm and took it off. “I’m not afraid of anything.”
He let go of Jiang Xiaoning’s hand, stood up, and turned around then stretched his hand to take off his jacket. Under the light, what appeared in front of Jiang Xiaoning with his beautiful shoulder and back lines was the gruesome Chinese character.
“Take a good look, Jiang Xiaoning.” He changed the way he addressed him to Jiang Xiaoning.
Jiang Xiaoning looked up. Han Jia had turned his back to him; he could not see his expression, but he heard his voice that was firm and calm. “Have you ever heard the story of Yue’s mother’s tattoo?”3
Jiang Xiaoning nodded subconsciously but thinking that Han Jia could not see it, he quickly opened his mouth that was hoarse from crying. “I’ve heard of it.” Then he turned pale with fright, “This word… your mom…”
“Yes. So,” Han Jia’s voice did not fluctuate, and there was no emotion in it either – it was as if he was telling a fact that everyone knew. He said in a deep voice, “I want to be worthy of this word.”
1 Amiability begets riches (和气生财) – in the business field, a confrontational approach or direct competition between firms would normally be avoided; a Chinese saying indicates that ‘amiability begets riches’. This is why in negotiations, when the Chinese party disagrees with a foreign partner’s proposal, he or she hardly ever says ‘no’. Instead, the Chinese part would say, for instance, ‘Let us think about it’, or simply ‘Let us study it further’. In addition, within organization management, emphasis is placed on a spirit of teamwork, while an approach based on individual brilliance is normally discouraged. The maximization of profit, which is a common goal for most Western businesses, would not be widely embraced by Chinese enterprises. A certain degree of profitability would generally satisfy most Chinese managers, following the Chinese maxim: ‘Leave while the going’s good’.
2 Laozi (老子) “I, your” (in anger, or out of contempt) / I (used arrogantly or jocularly)
3 Yue’s mother’s tattoo:
Yue Fei (岳飞， 24 March 1103 – 27 January 1142), courtesy name Pengju, was a Han Chinese military general who lived during the Southern Song dynasty. Yue Fei lived during the Song Dynasty and failed in his quest to restore his kingdom to its former greatness. However, his loyalty and conduct has inspired generation after generation of Chinese.
The renowned legend says that in order to encourage her son to fight, Yue’s mother wrote the Chinese phrase jin zhong bao guo on the back of her son using a calligraphy brush. She then carefully pierced the lettering out with a needle, and then filled the wound with ink and vinegar.
According to historical records and legend, Yue had the four Chinese characters jin zhong bao guo (尽忠报国; literally: “serve the country with the utmost loyalty”) tattooed across his back. The Biography of Yue Fei says after Qin Hui sent agents to arrest Yue and his son, he was taken before the court and charged with treason, but Yue ripped his jacket to reveal the four tattooed characters of “serve the country with the utmost loyalty” on his back. This proved that he was clearly innocent of the charges.
Later fictionalizations of Yue’s biography would build upon the tattoo. For instance, one of his earliest Ming era novels titled The Story of King Yue Who Restored the Song dynasty (《大宋中興岳王傳》) states that after the Jurchen armies invaded China, young heroes in Yue’s village suggest that they join the bandits in the mountains. However, Yue objects and has one of them tattoo the aforementioned characters on his back. Whenever others want to join the bandits, he flashes them the tattoo to change their minds.
The common legend of Yue receiving the tattoo from his mother first appeared in Shuo Yue Quanzhuan. In chapter 21 titled “By a pretext Wang Zuo swore brotherhood, by tattoos Lady Yue instructed her son”, Yue denounces the pirate chief Yang Yao (杨幺) and passes on a chance to become a general in his army. Yue Fei’s mother then tells her son, “I, your mother, saw that you did not accept recruitment of the rebellious traitor, and that you willingly endure poverty and are not tempted by wealth and status … But I fear that after my death, there may be some unworthy creature who will entice you … For these reason … I want to tattoo on your back the four characters ‘Utmost’, ‘Loyalty’, ‘Serve’ and ‘Nation’ … The Lady picked up the brush and wrote out on his spine the four characters for ‘serving the nation with the utmost loyalty’ … [So] she bit her teeth and started pricking. Having finished, she painted the characters with ink mixed with vinegar so that the colour would never fade.”
The Kaifeng Jews, one of many pockets of Chinese Jews living in ancient China, refer to this tattoo in two of their three stele monuments created in 1489, 1512, and 1663. The first mention appeared in a section of the 1489 stele referring to the Jews’ “Boundless loyalty to the country and Prince.” The second appeared in a section of the 1512 stele about how Jewish soldiers and officers in the Chinese armies were “boundlessly loyal to the country.”