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Stunned by the barrage of questions, Shi Jin glanced at the documents, glanced at Lian Jun’s face, and tried to recall his thought process at the time. Finally, he replied weakly, “I forgot… I really didn’t mean to hide it from you…”
He truly forgot. That day, at first he was focused entirely on Chen Qing’s meeting with Lian Jun, then, because of Shi Weichong’s nonsense, he kept worrying if Lian Jun was angry. He didn’t say anything about the list when giving a report because it slipped his mind. He didn’t remember it until he was lying in bed in the evening.
The analysis of the information resulted in him getting a fever and not thinking clearly for several days. After he got better, the unpleasantness with Pockmarked Yuan had already been dismissed from his mind—his attention turned to finding out whether Shi Weichong and Xu Chuan were colluding. He never considered telling Lian Jun about the customers’ list.
Long story short, he simply… forgot. Or rather, the thought that this was something he should inform Lian Jun about never even crossed his mind.
Lian Jun looked at his foolish, honest face and endured in silence for a while, but as it became obvious the teenager was not going to say anything more, he got angrier and angrier. “You forgot? That’s your whole explanation?”
Facing his fury, Shi Jin gave a stiff nod.
Lian Jun moved his wheelchair wanting to leave, but after a meter, he suddenly stopped and looked at Shi Jin. He forced his voice to soften: “The day you went to meet with Shi Weichong, you told me you needed to talk with him about a family matter. This ‘family matter’ was your suspicion you were on the Werewolf’s list of kidnapping targets?”
Shi Jin saw the other man’s face turned white with anger and felt a bit panicky. He grabbed the wheelchair armrest and nodded timidly. “Yes.”
“Family matter! Shi Jin, go back and think long and hard. When you understand, come see me.” Lian Jun threw off Shi Jin’s hand and left without turning back.
Bang! The door to the study slammed shut.
Frightened by Lian Jun’s rare display of temper, Shi Jin stared at the door in shock.
A few seconds later, Gua Two cautiously pushed them open and sneaked in. He asked, lowering his voice, “How did you manage to make Jun-shao this mad? He went straight to the underground floor.”
Shi Jin was somewhat confused—he didn’t understand why this matter made Lian Jun so angry. He could only shake his head in distress and say, “I don’t know… Um, why did Jun-shao go to the underground floor?”
“To practice shooting. Every time Jun-shao gets angry, or is in a bad mood, he goes to the shooting range. It’s his old habit,” Gua Two answered. Looking at Shi Jin’s befuddled expression, he let out a helpless sigh and asked, “What did you talk about with Jun-shao just now?”
Like a drowning man grasping at straws, Shi Jin picked the file and came up to Gua Two. Clutching onto him, he described the whole matter in a small voice, finishing, “I really forgot, but when I said this, Jun-shao was even angrier. He told me to think about it and come see him when I understand.”
After listening to his explanation, Gua Two said, frowning, “Perhaps it’s because you joined late and did not climb your way up from inside Annihilation, Shi Jin, but sometimes, you lack some knowledge that is simply common sense for us. Your mistake this time is that you broke the fundamental rule of the underworld: you concealed information. This is the biggest taboo in our line of work. You may say it’s not a big deal, this is your private matter, and you can take care of it by yourself, but you still should’ve told Jun-shao. Otherwise, if you got in trouble one day because of this list, we would be left clueless and with no way to help you. Countless predecessors shed blood for this rule to form—if there’s any indication you might be in danger, for any reason, you report it to higher-ups. This is both for your own good and for everyone’s good, understand?”
Shi Jin hadn’t really thought about it in this way; Gua Two’s words cast the whole different light on the matter. He nodded. “I… Yeah, I think I understand.”
Seeing him truly listen, Gua Two was gratified. He continued, “Besides concealing information, you made another mistake—you looked for help from outsiders and did not tell Jun-shao.”
“I didn’t look for help from outsiders, I just wanted to check my eldest brother’s attitude,” Shi Jin protested.
“I believe it wasn’t intentional. Jun-shao must’ve seen it too, or he wouldn’t have run to the shooting range to vent his anger but thrown you out to be punished. Still, even though you didn’t intend to seek outside help, that’s how it looks like in other people’s eyes. In our world, when we are in danger or may encounter danger, the best way to deal with it is to report it to the organization instead of trying to take care of things by yourself. Looking for help from outsiders can potentially blow the matter up, needlessly complicating the situation. Well, this time you didn’t screw up too much—after all, the person you involved was your brother. What you did wrong was not telling Jun-shao in advance… Anyway, Jun-shao saying you should think about it, then go find him is him giving you a chance. You shouldn’t let it slip away.” After Gua Two finished, he contemplated Shi Jin for a moment, then sighed and left.
Shi Jin flopped down on the sofa and thumbed through the file again. “Xiao Si, have I really done this the wrong way?”
Xiao Si consoled, <You just have no experience.>
“It has nothing to do with experience.” Shi Jin did a quick introspection. Recalling his thoughts and Gua Two’s words, he let out a deep sigh. “I just… Didn’t think about it.”
But if he considered Lian Jun a bit more, trusted him a little more, he would never forget to tell him about the customer list. In the final analysis, he simply neglected to do this. Although he cared about Lian Jun’s safety and considered him a golden thigh to hug, he never entrusted his own safety to the other party.
Lian Jun had always regarded him as a subordinate who must be taken care of and protected, but he had never regarded Lian Jun as a boss he could rely on. This difference in their points of view was the real reason why he “forgot” to tell Lian Jun about the list.
Xiao Si squirmed nervously, not knowing how to comfort him.
“Let’s go.” Shi Jin abruptly put the file away and stood.
<Go? Where?> Xiao Si stopped fretting.
“Apologize,” Shi Jin answered, sighing. “You know your Darling’s physical condition. It takes a lot of energy to deal with the gun recoil. To top it off, when he left, he was so angry his face turned white; this is also harmful to his body. I’m afraid he will do too much, and his health will suffer, which would mean my efforts these past few months would come to naught.”
Xiao Si’s heart turned cold, and it urged Shi Jin to hurry up.
By Lian Jun’s order, the shooting range was emptied of people and closed off. Shi Jin was stopped in the reception room and could only wait in front of the door.
A few hours later, Lian Jun finally came out, looking as usual. His face returned to its habitual calm and had no trace of the previous fury.
Shi Jin rushed forward to block his way. “Jun-shao, I understand what I did wrong.”
Lian Jun stopped the wheelchair and looked at him. His answer was succinct: “Speak.”
Seeing he didn’t refuse to talk, Shi Jin breathed a sigh of relief. He hurriedly said he shouldn’t have concealed information and sought help from outsiders. Then he sincerely apologized and asked for punishment.
Lian Jun was silent for a while. As his finger slowly tapped on the wheelchair armrest, he asked, “Did Gua Two explain this to you?”
Shi Jin’s expression stiffened. He glanced at Lian Jun cautiously, then nodded. “But I really understand. I will pay attention in the future, there will absolutely be no next time.”
Lian Jun was still watching him. “Do you have anything else to say?”
Shi Jin decided to take his chances and shook his head.
Lian Jun’s face sank. He turned his wheelchair around to return to the shooting range.
“Don’t! I still have something to say, don’t go back there! Your face is already white!” Shi Jin held Lian Jun’s wheelchair to stop him. He then daringly looked death in the eye and grabbed the other man’s right hand to inspect it. Seeing that sure enough, the palm was red, he couldn’t stop himself from nagging. “You’re angry, fine, but why would you torture yourself this way? Don’t you know your health is poor? The gun recoil is hard to deal with, and you’ve been practicing for so long…”
“Enough!” Lian Jun pulled his hand back, saying cooly, “Go back and continue to reflect on your mistakes.”
“It’s time to eat. I’ll reflect after dinner.” Shi Jin did not let go of Lian Jun’s wheelchair and pushed it towards the elevator regardless of its owner’s opposition. He pressed the button for the sixth floor and said, “First, eat. You can skip soup today.”
Lian Jun’s lips tightened. “Don’t push your luck, Shi Jin,” he growled.
“I’m not, I just haven’t finished explaining. Let’s talk as we eat.” Shi Jin, afraid he would continue to harm himself, calmed his voice and tried to soothe him. “It’s me you’re angry at, so why do this to yourself? I’m pretty sturdy and my skin is thick, I can take abuse. If you’re mad at me, just say it—I don’t think I can figure the reason by myself. You have to tell me what I should reflect on.”
Lian Jun turned his head away and refused to speak. He didn’t even want to see Shi Jin’s reflection in the elevator mirror.
Shi Jin didn’t keep on talking. He stooped down to help Lian Jun cover his legs with a blanket, then, when the elevator door opened, he pushed him out and continued to do so the whole way to the dining room. He also didn’t forget to call the kitchen to let them know they didn’t have to serve soup during today’s dinner.
When they arrived, Shi Jin pushed Lian Jun to his usual place, but instead of returning to his own usual seat across the table, he sat next to him. As they waited for the dishes, he said sincerely, “Don’t be angry anymore, I truly do know I was wrong.”
Lian Jun didn’t look at him, but also didn’t stop him from speaking.
Shi Jin sighed. He dragged his chair to sit beside Lian Jun, fixed his blanket, and said slowly, “I really didn’t mean to hide this from you. The day I got back from the assignment, I got distracted by Chen Qing’s matter and my brothers’ nonsense, and Werewolf’s customer list slipped my mind. Later, when I remembered about it, I started to have a fever. I was groggy all the time and forgot about it again.”
Lian Jun still didn’t speak, but his head turned slightly toward Shi Jin. Obviously, he was listening.
Shi Jin noticed and continued eagerly, “As for my eldest brother—it’s not that I was going to get outside help, I simply wanted to confirm if he was involved.” He described Xu Chuan’s position and his status as a family confidant at the time, his guess that it was Xu Chuan who wanted to harm him, and his suspicion that Shi Weichong and Xu Chuan might’ve collaborated. He explained things in great detail, but kept secret the matter of Xiao Si copying the information, only saying he deduced Xu Chuan’s name from some clues and conversations he eavesdropped on during the mission.
“You know I used to suspect my eldest brother wanted to kill me. Even though our relationship got better after we solved some misunderstandings, I was afraid it was just my wishful thinking, so I wanted to test his attitude. My intention was to make sure my brother and Xu Chuan weren’t working together, not to ask him for help behind your back.”
Lian Jun was finally willing to look at Shi Jin. Although his eyebrows were still drawn together in a frown, his voice softened a little. “If so, why didn’t you tell me then? Several days passed from when you recovered and went to meet with Shi Weichong to the officials contacting me. During that time, you had countless chances to tell me. Why didn’t you?”
“I…” Shi Jin looked at him. All kinds of excuses flashed through his mind, but when he met Lian Jun’s eyes, the evasive words stuck in his throat. He hung his head, sighing. “Because it’s a private matter and I didn’t believe there was a need to say anything… I didn’t think I should let you know.”
This was an ugly, unpleasant truth, dragged out of the depths of Shi Jin’s heart—inside, he wasn’t willing to rely on Lian Jun at all. He was too used to being independent; in his subconscious, the idea that “you can ask for help when you’re in trouble” didn’t exist.
Because of his position, it was always him who was helping others. He wasn’t accustomed to seeking help from other people.
Perhaps this was something even Shi Jin wasn’t aware of: he cared about Lian Jun, but didn’t feel he needed him.
Lian Jun was by no means stupid—if anything, he was too sharp. As he looked at Shi Jin’s head hanging low, the stuffy feeling in his chest he had all afternoon slowly disappeared. His hands loosened their tight grip on the wheelchair armrests. A long moment later, he moved closer to the table and, coincidentally, away from Shi Jin. “Eat,” he said.
Shi Jin raised his head and called out, falteringly, “Jun-shao…”
“Eat,” Lian Jun interrupted him and picked up his chopsticks. “I’ll help you keep an eye on Xu Chuan’s matter, and you will find Gua Two to make up for the gaps in your knowledge. I don’t want something like this happening a second time.”
Shi Jin glanced at his tranquil profile and opened his mouth wanting to speak, but he closed it again without a word.
He didn’t know what else to say; everything was already made clear, and it was obvious Lian Jun intended to let bygones be bygones. Besides, it seemed that… the other man didn’t want to listen to him any longer.
The mood throughout their dinner was subdued. Lian Jun looked as if he wasn’t mad anymore. He listened to Shi Jin’s instructions during the meal and even asked about Xu Chuan in greater detail, apparently ready to help Shi Jin look into this matter. And yet, Shi Jin couldn’t help but feel the atmosphere was strange. His heart somehow felt much heavier than when Lian Jun was visibly angry.
A few days later, thanks to Lian Jun’s intervention, the investigation of Xu Chuan’s matter began to make rapid progress.
Shi Jin had no idea how Lian Jun did it, but he actually managed to pry open the mouths of Werewolf’s boss and his two deputies. From them, the investigators got the confirmation that the person who made a deal with Werewolf was indeed Xu Chuan, as well as his detailed requirements for the kidnapping.
Disfigurement, cut-off fingers, the victim was allowed to be killed but had to be tortured for a sufficient length of time first—these were Xu Chuan’s demands, vicious and cruel to the extreme.
After Xiang Aoting heard the testimonies, he was so furious he almost burst into the room where Xu Chuan was being held and beat him up. When he was stopped by the people around, his expression turned too frightening to look at.
With the confessions of Werewolf members in hand, the interrogators finally managed to force Xu Chuan to speak for the first time since he was arrested. The first sentence that came out from his mouth was, “I want to see Shi Weichong and Shi Jin.”
When Shi Weichong got the news about Xu Chuan’s request, he was going to refuse right away as he wasn’t willing to let Shi Jin suffer the man’s malice. However, Shi Jin insisted on going, saying he wanted to talk to Xu Chuan face to face.
The brothers were locked in a stalemate until Lian Jun broke it by making a decision: Go. Since Shi Jin wants to go, let him.
Shi Weichong was angry, but had to compromise—Lian Jun had his own ways to let Shi Jin see Xu Chuan, so his objection was useless anyway. It was better to bring Shi Jin with him, at least then he could supervise their meeting.
When it was convenient for everyone, Shi Weichong drove to the club to take Shi Jin to see Xu Chuan.
Before going out, Shi Jin found Lian Jun and assured him the meeting shouldn’t take too long, and he would definitely be back before dinner.
Lian Jun didn’t look at him. In fact, he didn’t bother to move his eyes away from the document he was reading. “Call Gua One if something happens,” was his only reply.
Shi Jin began to speak but bit his tongue. He turned away and left the study, feeling downcast.
For the past few days, he clearly felt Lian Jun’s offhandedness and alienation. Although they still ate together and spent the day in each other’s company, the number of their conversations dwindled to practically nothing. Also, Lian Jun’s attitude became indifferent, much less lively than earlier.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, Lian Jun became picky eater again, and his complexion looked increasingly worse. Day by day, he was losing what weight he’d gained in the past months.
“Hah…” Shi Jin sighed, extremely worried.
It was already the third time he sighed since getting into the car. Finally, Shi Weichong couldn’t resist asking, “What’s the matter? You’re eighteen but sigh more than an old man. Are you worried about the meeting with Xu Chuan?”
Shi Jin returned to himself and glanced at him, then shook his head. “No… I’m worried about Lian Jun. He’s got too thin recently.”
Shi Weichong’s face turned black, and he stopped speaking. Though last time Shi Jin swore what he felt for Lian Jun was just worship, his current behavior was making people think otherwise.
It seemed Shi Jin’s conversation switch was flipped because he began to mutter: “I always feel Lian Jun is still angry, but he refuses to say anything so I have no idea what to do. He almost stopped eating too. He used to eat a few bites more when I urged him, but now he just leaves straight away when I say anything, as if he’d rather go hungry. He doesn’t care about his body at all.”
As he listened to Shi Jin’s grumbles, Shi Weichong felt a choking sensation in his chest, making it hard to breathe. He blurted, “He’s an adult, it’s his own business whether he eats or not. Why are you even worrying about this? You’re living at his place to ‘study,’ not to babysit him.”
“How can I not worry? I took great pains to make him put on a little weight, one mouthful at a time. It wasn’t easy at all.” Shi Jin was depressed. He collapsed in his seat, sighing for the fourth time, and mumbled, “If only I could give him some of the flesh on my body…”
The veins on Shi Weichong’s forehead swelled so much they looked close to bursting. He abruptly stepped on the brakes and pulled up on the roadside, then turned to stare at Shi Jin.
The teenager flinched, intimidated. “What’s wrong, Big Brother? Don’t you get angry at me too, I won’t be able to deal with that,” he stammered out.
“…It would serve you right!” Shi Weichong re-started the car. This conversation was making him angry, so he changed the subject: “What are your plans for New Year’s Day? It’s coming soon.”
New Year’s Day?
Taken aback, Shi Jin glanced outside the car’s window. The entrances of some of the buildings were already decorated with red diamond-shaped Fú characters and red lanterns—indeed, New Year was almost here. He couldn’t help but sigh again; this year, he wouldn’t be able to eat the dumplings with his family nor exchange the New Year’s wishes and blessings with his colleagues.
Shi Weichong had a headache when he heard him sigh. He couldn’t help but reach out and rap on the teenager’s head.
“Ah.” Shi Jin’s head knocked against the car’s window. He turned and scowled at Shi Weichong. “Why did you hit me?”
“To wake you up,” Shi Weichong snapped, but seeing Shi Jin’s aggrieved expression, he lost the will to scold him further. He simply stopped chatting with him lest his youngest brother aggravated him to death.
The place where Xu Chuan was being detained was relatively hidden—it was a covert detention center, not known to the public. After all, not only was he a renowned lawyer but had ties with the criminal organization, Werewolf, and had to be handled carefully.
By the time Shi Weichong and Shi Jin arrived, Xiang Aoting was already there. He was talking to the police officers in charge of interrogating Xu Chuan.
“Fourth Brother,” Shi Jin called out when he entered the room.
Xiang Aoting paused his conversation and came over to him. “Are you really sure you want to meet with Xu Chuan?”
Shi Jin nodded. “Yeah. I want to know why he wanted to harm me.”
“Big Brother can ask him this for you.” Xiang Aoting disagreed with Shi Jin’s decision and urged him to think it over, but couldn’t convince him to change his mind. Seeing his persuasion failed, he looked at Shi Weichong standing at the teenager’s side.
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye on him,” Shi Weichong appeased.
Helpless, Xiang Aoting had no choice but to turn around and notify the police officers to let the two men into the interrogation room.
Xu Chuan heard the door opening but didn’t move until Shi Weichong and Shi Jin sat on the other side of the table. Only then did he raise his head, as if he sensed something. Shi Weichong was sitting opposite him, so he saw him first, but it was obvious he wasn’t interested in him. His eyes quickly moved away from him and rested on Shi Jin.
Then he froze.
Shi Jin looked at him as well. Carefully observing his expression, he seized the initiative and asked, “Why do you want to kill me?”
The look on Xu Chuan’s face turned strange. He slowly straightened and leaned closer to Shi Jin, scrutinizing his appearance. He even stretched out his hands, trying to touch the young man’s face.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” Shi Weichong slapped his hands away.
It was as if Xu Chuan awoke from a dream. He glanced at Shi Weichong, then at Shi Jin, and suddenly laughed out loud. “Ridiculous! You two sitting here amiably, like good brothers? What a great joke! I have nothing to say to you; the winner is the king, the loser is the villain. The person behind me is Xu Tianhua, the former deputy chairman of Ruixing. He had long seen Shi Xingrui as an eyesore. After learning he left all his shares to Shi Jin, he came up with the scheme to kill or maim him, then seize this opportunity to take control of Ruixing. But what a pity: he hadn’t yet had the time to carry out his plans when you, Shi Weichong, popped up like a jack-in-the-box and blindsided him.”
“What are your plans for New Year’s Day?” – Shi Weichong is talking about Chinese New Year, which usually falls between 21 January and 20 February. Some fun facts here.
“Red diamond-shaped Fú characters“ – 福, literally: ‘blessings, happiness.’
“Dumplings” – in northern China, it is customary to make dumplings (jiaozi) after dinner to eat around midnight. Dumplings symbolize wealth because their shape resembles a Chinese sycee.
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