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In B City, Lian Jun had indeed found who the suspect was, and thanks to Shi Weichong’s call, they pinpointed Li Jiuzheng’s position.
Gua Nine stopped typing and said, “The target’s phone is on a highway near the L city and is moving rapidly. The target shut it down after the call; it’s impossible to continue tracking.”
Shi Weichong raised a hand to wipe his face, slumping against the sofa. His last hope this was a misunderstanding disappeared.
Li Jiuzheng claimed he was in Chengdu and never left. He also said that he received a call from Shi Jin last night, but they didn’t talk. However, Lian Jun’s subordinate located Li Jiuzheng not far from B city—and judging from the direction, it seemed that he had just left B city and was moving towards L city. This was completely different from what Li Jiuzheng said on the phone.
What’s more, Lian Jun got a recording of Shi Jin’s last call the previous night. It proved that not only the teenager did speak after the call connected, but he asked for help and reported his location in detail.
A number of subsequent surveillance videos from the street monitoring showed that a black car made a short stop on that street last night. The time coincided perfectly with the time when Shi Jin hung up.
Lian Jun’s subordinates found all Shi Jin’s personal belongings in a garbage can not too far away. By calling up a nearby surveillance video, they determined that the person who had thrown them out was the driver of the same black car.
All the clues pointed to Li Jiuzheng. Earlier, Shi Weichong could’ve comforted himself that there was no evidence Li Jiuzheng was in that car, so he might not have been involved. However, the call just now made it impossible for Shi Weichong to deceive himself any longer—his fifth brother, whom he considered the most righteous out of them all, took away their wounded youngest brother and lied about it.
He couldn’t figure out why Li Jiuzheng would do this. After all, he had never shown obvious malice towards Shi Jin.
“Maybe Jiuzheng just wanted to help Xiao Jin with his injury…” He tried to give a reason for Li Jiuzheng’s actions, though he didn’t believe it himself.
Lian Jun slid his wheelchair from behind the desk. “If that was true, he wouldn’t hide Shi Jin. Gua One, book tickets to Chengdu, and send someone to follow Li Jiuzheng’s car.”
“Understood.” Gua One nodded and stepped away to take care of it.
Shi Weichong said with a frown, “Even if Jiuzheng took Xiao Jin away, it’s not as if he will hurt him—”
“Are you sure? Are you completely certain Li Jiuzheng bears no grudge against Shi Jin?” Lian Jun interrupted, getting right to the crux of the matter.
Shi Weichong was stunned into silence—no, he wasn’t. Everyone in their family, including himself, had absolutely no goodwill towards Shi Jin until they saw how he’d changed.
For them, Shi Jin used to be nothing but an eyesore. The negative emotions, accumulated for over ten years, couldn’t be casually covered up and dismissed with a “probably.” He was well aware why nobody had been openly hostile to Shi Jin before. Li Jiuzheng had never shown anything on his face, but who could be sure what were his real thoughts?
Lian Jun saw him unable to answer, and the corner of his mouth hooked up in a sneer. “You brothers are truly ridiculous, each more than the last. Exactly what atrocities has Shi Jin committed against you?” Then he moved his wheelchair away and left, not bothering to glance back.
Gua Two and others hurried to keep up with him.
In a blink of an eye, Shi Weichong was the only one left in the study, thinking about Lian Jun’s final words. He pulled up the New Year’s message Shi Jin sent him last night. The more he thought, the tighter his fingers gripped the phone. Finally, he also got up and strode away from the study.
The bumpy car ride wasn’t conducive to recovering from injury. Though Shi Jin sobered up, it wasn’t for long; soon, he became dizzy, then broke out in a fever. Forget watching out for the opportunity to run away, it was difficult for him to even keep awake.
It didn’t take Li Jiuzheng long to notice the teenager’s state. He looked at him sideways and his fingers twitched, however, in the end, he chose to ignore him.
A few hours later, when the pale winter sunlight began to fade, the car finally stopped—they reached Li Jiuzheng’s destination.
Shi Jin was forced to wake up and get off the car, though his legs were trembling with weakness and almost unable to support him. After Xiao Si’s nudge, he looked up, forcing his groggy head to work… and nearly had a heart attack. Li Jiuzheng actually brought him to a cemetery! What was this about? Did he want to kill Shi Jin and get rid of the corpse right away?
“New Year’s Day is an auspicious day for worship,” Li Jiuzheng said in a flat tone of voice. He signaled for the driver to wait outside and pulled the teenager toward the cemetery.
“Fifth Brother, why did you bring me here…” Shi Jin’s head hurt and dark spots danced in front of his eyes, making it difficult to see. Dragged forward, he stumbled so often that if it wasn’t for the hand gripping his arm, he would’ve fallen already.
Hearing his hoarse, nearly inaudible voice, Li Jiuzheng glanced at him and stopped. He took out a few pills and fed them to Shi Jin, saying, “Eat them, you can’t faint now.”
Shi Jin didn’t oppose him, but obediently opened his mouth and dry-swallowed the medicine. He took a deep breath, trying to wake himself up, and repeated his question: “Fifth Brother, where is this?”
The man continued to drag him along. “The place where my mother is buried.”
“What? Your mother… Cough, cough, cough.” Shi Jin spoke too quickly and accidentally choked on the pill stuck in his throat. He bent over, coughing.
Forced to stop again, Li Jiuzheng turned to look at him. The hand that pulled the teenager’s arm slowly tightened and his expression became a bit scary.
<JinJin, the progress bar went up again, to 910.> Xiao Si was panicking. For some reason, it felt Li Jiuzheng’s state was terribly wrong.
Taken aback, Shi Jin choked on air, which made him cough harder, his throat painful. He looked up at Li Jiuzheng and waved his hand weakly, indicating he could ignore himself and continue walking.
Right now, Shi Jin’s appearance was truly pitiful. His complexion was terrible, with pale, bloodless lips and cheeks unnaturally red because of high fever. Sick sweat soaked his hair, making it lie flat on his head. The patient clothes he had been changed into were too big and hung loosely on his frame, and he wore his own bloody mess of a jacket over them. His hands and wrists exposed outside his sleeves were blue from cold—it was enough to look at them to know the weather was freezing.
His present appearance made Li Jiuzheng stare blankly for a moment. Then, his expression suddenly sank. No longer talking, he dragged the young man towards the corner of the cemetery.
Shi Jin stumbled after him, not daring to open his mouth again. He spoke to the system in his mind, though: “Li Jiuzheng’s mother died? Why didn’t the novel mention this!”
Xiao Si was also astounded. It replied uncertainly, <Probably because the novel was written from the perspective of the original ‘Shi Jin?’ ‘He’ didn’t know this, so it wasn’t mentioned in the plot.>
Shi Jin felt a bitter taste in his mouth. He bit out, “This damn novel! It didn’t mention such an important piece of information! No wonder the progress bar went up when I asked Li Jiuzheng why he wasn’t home with his family. It turned out his most important family member passed away; my question poked at his wounds.”
Xiao Si was more concerned about his health than the plot. <JinJin, you need a follow-up treatment and a good rest, you can’t go on like this any longer.>
“I know, but it’s impossible right now…” Shi Jin took a look at Li Jiuzheng, who was marching forward with big steps, dragging him along, and struggled to gather his thoughts. “Besides, my brother’s attitude is simply too bizarre, I feel I can get some information from him… I’ll wait and see; I can still keep going.”
Helpless to do anything more, Xiao Si kept adding buffs to him, hoping he would feel better and hold on until help arrives. It prayed for Lian Jun to hurry up and come here soon.
It took the two of them a long time to reach Li Jiuzheng’s mother’s grave. Li Jiuzheng pushed Shi Jin down, closer to the still new tombstone, and pointed at the photo on it: “Look at her, look long and hard.”
Pushed like that, Shi Jin tumbled toward the tombstone. He managed to grab it and stabilize his body, but his knee slammed into the ground. The burning pain let him know it was scrapped, hard.
He frowned, enduring silently. Instead of kneeling, he changed his position and sat down in front of the grave, then raised his head to peer at the photo. After taking a closer look, he was stunned—Li Jiuzheng’s mother didn’t resemble like her son. Instead, she looked similar to Shi Jin, especially her eyes and eyebrows.
No, not quite; looking carefully, Li Jiuzheng and his mother had some similarities, such as the contour of their faces and shape of lips. But those eyes…
“We don’t look alike, right?” Li Jiuzheng bent over and put his hand on Shi Jin’s shoulder, touching the photograph with the other. He looked both at him and at the beautiful, gentle woman in it, and whispered, “I’m clearly her child, but I don’t resemble her at all. But you… She dreamed of a child who looks like her, so I’ll give you to her, all right?”
The madness in these words caught Shi Jin off guard—Li Jiuzheng’s killing intent toward the original ‘Shi Jin’ was because of such a fucked-up reason! Who would have expected that Li Jiuzheng’s mother looked like ‘Shi Jin?’
According to Xu Chuan and Rong Zhouzhong, ‘Shi Jin’s’ appearance was similar to that of his own mother, so how come it was similar to Li Jiuzheng’s mother too… Wait a minute! ‘Shi Jin’ resembled ‘his’ mother, and ‘his’ eyes looked like Li Jiuzheng’s mother’s eyes. If so, then both their mothers’ eyes looked very much alike…
Something was nagging at him at the back of his mind, but before he could focus on it, he felt a sudden sting of pain. He looked down—Li Jiuzheng put the scalpel on his neck and drawn a short, shallow line. All the thought’s in Shi Jin’s mind immediately fled in the face of an emergency.
—This time I’m really going to die!
Xiao Si whimpered, then wailed, <JinJin! Your bar jumped to 990! Do something, fast!>
Shi Jin was about to collapse. Do something? He couldn’t make head or tails of the situation, what was he supposed to do? He might as well throw himself on the scalpel and end it all! Li Jiuzheng was a complete lunatic—how could such a dangerous person be a doctor!
Wait, a doctor?
In a moment of unexpected clarity of mind, Shi Jin had an idea. Deciding to go for broke and try it out, he grabbed Li Jiuzheng’s hand holding the scalpel, saying earnestly, “Brother, don’t use this, not here, not like that. The scalpel is something used to save lives, don’t dirty it because of me.”
Li Jiuzheng’s hand stiffened. His tone abruptly sank and become colder: “Did you think I’ll let you off if you say that?”
“I just want you to let yourself off!” Shi Jin replied, forcing himself to make his body relax and lean on his brother. Glancing at the time of death on the tombstone, he said softly, “During all these years you had countless chances to kill me, but you never ever tried. In reality, you don’t want to kill me, do you?”
Li Jiuzhend didn’t answer, nor did he push him away. He simply gazed at the grave, and his eyes were full of emotions, too deep to be understood by anyone except for himself.
The wound on his shoulder was being pressed, which made Shi Jin uncomfortable. His eyebrows knitted from pain, but he did his best to keep his voice and expression steady. He slowly turned sideways to face his brother and tried to embrace his waist with one hand. Asking Xiao Si to give him buffs, he said, making his voice fall lower and lower, “Brother, I know you just lost your mother and couldn’t deal with it, so you acted on impulse… This year, it finally became possible to spend New Year with her, but suddenly, she was gone, and you lost this chance forever.”
Li Jiuzheng tensed, and the hand that gripped Shi Jin’s injured shoulder tightened sharply.
Shi Jin threw himself into his eyes and hugged him hard, using this opportunity to push the scalpel away. He patted his brother on the back comfortingly, and continued, “I’m the same as you, this year, I’m all alone too. My mom died many years ago. I don’t know what she looked like, where she’s buried—in fact, I have no memory of her at all. Brother, you’re all I have left…”
The man kept silent, but the fingers clenched on the scalpel gradually relaxed their hold. Instead, his lips pressed together.
“Brother, let me stay with you. We’ll celebrate the New Year together, as before. Everything will pass, it’s all right, it’s all right now.” Shi Jin kept pacifying him, asking Xiao Si to add to him all the buffs it thought even remotely useful.
“…What are you scheming?” A while later, Li Jiuzheng finally was willing to speak. His voice was low and his words taunting, but he let the hand holding the scalpel drop. Abruptly, his body relaxed and he sat heavily on the ground.
Xiao Si cried out in delight, <It fell, it fell, your progress bar fell to 950!>
Shi Jin let out a sigh, relieved that his plan to make Li Jiuzheng feel they were both similarly pitiful worked. He sat down too, worming himself into his arms, and rubbed his shoulders soothingly. “Brother, if you feel sad, then just cry. I’ll stay with you.”
Scientific research showed that hugging and crying helped to relieve stress and tension, making people feel better afterward. Shi Jin simply hoped his brother would vent and let go of some of his killing intent.
However, Li Jiuzheng didn’t cooperate with him. Although he didn’t push him away, as his mood slowly calmed down, his eyes exhibited their usual cold indifference. “Only weaklings cry. I’m not a weakling,” he said.
“…” Shi Jin suddenly regretted not watching more tearjerking talk-shows—maybe he would’ve learned from the hosts how to make people cry.
The progress bar still hovered in the danger zone; apparently, Li Jiuzheng’s killing intent was still there. Shi Jin weighed his options and said obligingly, “Then I’ll cry for you! I’m not strong at all. When my mother died, I was too young to understand and I don’t know if I had ever cried. We suffer the same kind of pain, but you can’t cry, so I’ll cry instead. It’s okay, I’ll always be my brother’s sweet little quilted jacket.” He let Xiao Si give him a little buff, then sniffed and burst into tears. He cried as if the world was ending; soon, Li Jiuzheng’s shoulder was soaked.
Li Jiuzheng: “…”
“Waaaah, children without the mothers are like grass on the roadside, nobody cares about them. Nobody cares about us…” Shi Jin cried and cried, and then started to bawl loudly. While he was at it, he inadvertently rubbed his snot on Li Jiuzheng’s coat.
Li Jiuzheng, who was a bit mysophobic, stiffened and tried to push him away.
Shi Jin was weeping his heart out here, so how would he let himself to be pushed away? He put his good arm around his brother’s neck and hugged him tighter. Inwardly, he howled at Xiao Si, “What the hell is this buff?! I feel so freaking miserable I could topple the Great Wall with my tears!”
Xiao Si whispered timidly, <Um, that’s because I gave you the ‘Lady Meng Jiang Weeps Down The Great Wall’ buff…>
Shi Jin: “…Boohoo!”
Accompanied by the whistle of the north wind, the sun was setting.
The two brothers sat in front of the tombstone. One was staring at it blankly, his hands limply hanging down, his eyebrows wrinkled, and the expression of forbearance in his eyes; the other was hugging him and crying his eyes out as if the sky had to burst into tears too for him to stop.
When the occasional grave visitors saw this scene, they couldn’t help but imagine some blood-and-thunder drama with a tragic ending. They sighed, then shook their heads and walked away.
It took more than an hour for Shi Jin’s crying to subside. Then, the dehydration, hunger, and fever reminded about themselves, along with some other negative conditions. Shi Jin’s consciousness began to fade. Because of the cold, he couldn’t help but to curl up and try to burrow into/snuggle up to Li Jiuzheng’s arms.
“When she met Shi Xingrui, she was just a naive girl, not even twenty years old,” Li Jiuzheng suddenly spoke. His voice was soft but lacking emotion. It caused Shi Jin to wake up a bit, and he rubbed his head on his brother’s chest to prove he was listening.
“She was the last woman Shi Xingrui pursued… That was before your mother appeared. Although Shi Xingrui abandoned her immediately after I was born, she still clung to this illusion—’see, your father cares about you, he hasn’t looked for another woman, maybe he’ll come back to us one day’… These ridiculous thoughts made her indulge in her fantasies more and more. Finally, she sank into them completely.”
Shi Jin opened his eyes, a little dazed.
“But, in the end, this was just her delusion. Your mother appeared and it shattered… Then she had another one—’look, that woman and I look alike, your father simply coveted her younger body, but it doesn’t matter; when she has a baby like me, her figure will also change, and then your father will realize who is better… Your mother is special, and you are special too.’”
Shi Jin struggled to prop himself up and see his brother’s face.
Li Jiuzheng looked at him impassively and reached to touch his cheek. “Then she went mad, in the real sense. In the beginning, when she woke up, she didn’t believe she had been thrown away. She ignored the existence of your mother and came to believe you were her child. She blamed Shi Xingrui not coming to see her on me—because I resembled neither my mother nor my father, so he hated me, and abandoned her because of that. Later, she even suspected I was swapped at birth. Don’t you think it’s funny? I was right in front of her, but she thought it was you, whom she’d never seen, that was her son.”
“Brother…” Shi Jin’s heart ached. He wanted to comfort him but had no idea what to say.
“Genes are such a strange thing. I had a lot of things I couldn’t understand, so I studied medicine.” Li Jiuzheng covered the lower half of the teenager’s face and watched only his eyes, spellbound. “Later, I learned a lot of things. I learned why I don’t look like my parents, and that my mother’s fantasies were actually a mental illness. I tried my best to treat her, taking care not to let her condition worsen… When, finally, Shi Xingrui died, I was sure she would wake up for real…”
“Brother, don’t talk anymore.” Shi Jin pulled away the hand blocking his face and tugged at it, trying to stop the words pouring from his mouth.
Li Jiuzheng put his hand down. On his face, there was no expression at all. “But she died. She woke up and lost all her will to live. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to keep her here, she died, right in front of me. She blamed me until her last breath, asking why couldn’t I look like her.”
Shi Jin quickly grabbed his hand again and said, “It’s not your fault, she was just sick. The one to blame was Shi Xingrui, and your mother was ill. It’s not your fault, Brother.”
“I almost made the same mistake as her and fell into the same madness—if only you were never born, if only you really were her child… But this has nothing to do with you. You’re just a child who had lost his mother…” Li Jiuzheng slowly pulled out his hand. It seemed as if thick walls went up in his eyes, hiding all his emotions inside and preventing others from entering. “You can go, Shi Jin.”
Xiao Si cried out, <Down! JinJin, your progress bar is down to 500! It’s a miracle!>
Shi Jin blinked in surprise, then scowled at Li Jiuzheng. “Fifth Brother, I won’t go. Stop thinking too much—things will get better.”
“Go away.” Li Jiuzheng stopped looking at him and picked up the scalpel on the ground. He glanced toward a nearby path. “That man is coming to pick you up. When he saw you, he came straight this way… Leave, I don’t want to see you again.”
Taken aback, Shi Jin looked in the direction he pointed to and saw a familiar figure sitting in a wheelchair. His eyes brightened and he got up, wanting to rush to his side. He took a step forward, then stopped and turned back, bending over to snatch the scalpel from Li Jiuzheng’s hand. He struggled to pull the man up from the ground, saying, “New Year’s Day is an auspicious time to worship the ancestors. Now that we are done, it’s time to go back and continue celebrating.”
Li Jiuzheng frowned and got up, reaching for the scalpel. “Give it back to me.”
“No, it’s mine now.” Shi Jin stuffed the scalpel into his pocket, then grabbed his brother’s hand and pulled him in the direction of Lian Jun. “I said I’m going to accompany you. Neither of us has parents, so it’s only right to spend the Spring Festival together. Come on, let’s go. I’ll make you dumplings when we get home.”
Li Jiuzheng did not move. “In Chengdu, we don’t eat dumplings on New Year’s day.”
“Sweet little quilted jacket” [贴心小棉袄] – refers to the close relationship between parents and child (almost always daughter). It’s a metaphor for the child’s love and care for parents: like a quilted jacket, he or she would accompany them closely and let them feel warm.
“Lady Meng Jiang Weeps Down The Great Wall” – a famous Chinese folktale, with many variations. Lady Meng Jiang’s husband was pressed into service by imperial officials and sent as corvee labor to build the Great Wall of China. Lady Meng Jiang heard nothing after his departure, so she set out to bring him winter clothes. Unfortunately, by the time she reached the Great Wall, her husband had already died. Hearing the bad news, she wept so bitterly that a part of the Great Wall collapsed, revealing his bones. (Wiki – or google it)
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