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The atmosphere was a little awkward. Shi Jin lowered his head for a moment and got a tight grip on his wandering thoughts. Then, as if nothing had happened, turned to the massage table and looked at Lian Jun’s legs.
Lian Jun was almost gaunt. When he first mentioned the massage, Shi Jin had mentally prepared himself to see a pair of bony, unattractive appendages. However, when the time came, he was stunned.
Lian Jun’s legs were indeed slender, appearing even more so when he was lying down like that. They were not ugly though: long and straight, with a bit of muscle in proper places, like the calves. The proportions were great too. Probably due to Lian Jun’s poor health, his body hair was sparse. Basically, except for the legs being a little too thin, and the skin delicate enough the blood vessels were visible, there were no severe problems.
This ratio, this length… Lian Jun’s legs were good-looking, contrary to Shi Jin’s imagination. If one didn’t hold the opinion that “men should have strong muscles,” they were perfect.
“Are they ugly?” Lian Jun asked in a low voice, observing Shi Jin’s expression carefully.
The teenager came back to himself and shook his head. He couldn’t stop himself from touching one pale leg, pinching the meat on the calf to make sure the muscle was real.
It was. As it turned out, Lian Jun’s beautiful legs were not a figment of his imagination.
They were also very sensitive. Shi Jin’s pinch was light but sudden; Lian Jun wasn’t prepared for it and reflexively twisted away, his eyebrows wrinkling.
Shi Jin realized what he’d done and gently touched his calf again, asking anxiously, “Did that hurt? I’m sorry, I used too much strength.”
“No.” Lian Jun’s frown smoothed out. He moved his legs a little, avoiding the young man’s warm, dry hands. He wasn’t used to having direct skin-to-skin contact with anyone.
Shi Jin, however, misunderstood his movement and thought touch made his legs hurt. Frowning, he silently asked Xiao Si, “Lian Jun’s legs are more sensitive than expected. Can he stand the massage?”
<He can, you just need to use less strength. The massage is good for Darling,> Xiao Si assured. Its tone become eager: <Come on, JinJin, don’t be afraid! On the nest looks good! Go win! Darling’s tired greasy!>
Shi Jin: “……”
Apparently, his “golden finger” had been stunned by the beauty and was useless for the time being.
Shi Jin focused on Lian Jun’s legs again. He hesitated for a moment but decided to give it a try. Although Lian Jun’s legs looked fine on the surface, after such a long period of inactivity, the muscles must be stiff. It would be best to loosen them up first.
With that in mind, he turned and reached for a towel, folded it, then put it on Lian Jun’s waist, covering his key parts. He glanced at the man, touching the hem of the bathrobe: “I’m going to begin, Jun-shao. Tell me if it hurts so I can use less strength.”
Lian Jun was not accustomed to lying down, helpless and vulnerable, baring his body. However, he didn’t show it on his face and nodded. He even closed his eyes, pretending he was looking forward to it.
He’s cooperating, good.
Relieved and grateful, Shi Jin quickly pulled open the bottom of Lian Jun’s bathrobe and exposed his legs. He turned around and picked up the medical massage oil provided by Uncle Long, poured a little into his palm, rubbed for a moment to warm it, then carefully touched Lian Jun’s calf.
His hands were warmer than usual, and Lian Jun’s legs were sensitive; the touch of Shi Jin’s palms felt like two soft, hot washcloths caressing his skin. At first, it was a little uncomfortable, but a few seconds later, the sensation became soothing, as if his pores had opened and were cleansed.
Then, the temperature began to move, slowly inching up his calf. Skin smoothly glided over skin, leaving it glossy from oil. The refreshing sea breeze swayed the curtains, stroking the exposed skin and bringing a pleasant chill.
Cooling after feeling the heat was much more satisfying than the direct feeling of coolness.
Lian Jun’s eyelashes shivered, and his breathing slowed and became softer. He felt Shi Jin’s hands leave his calf and stroke along his knee, then they left for a moment. There was a sound of a bottle being opened and hands rubbing, and his knee became hot again. The heat gradually advanced to his thigh, moved along the outer part, then slid towards the inner side…
Lian Jun’s eyes snapped open, and he half-rose, bending his legs to block Shi Jin’s hands. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “I want to drink some cold water. With ice.”
Shi Jin was still coating his legs with the massage oil, but the sudden movement forced him to take his hands away. He gave the man a disapproving look: “You can’t drink cold things, they hurt your stomach. I’ll pour you a cup of warm water.”
Warm water won’t have any cooling effect.
“…Forget it.” Lian Jun discreetly closed his legs a bit tighter and laid back on the massage table. Motioning to the window next to him, he asked, “Can you open it a little wider? The sea breeze feels comfortable today.”
Shi Jin glanced at the French window left ajar and checked the strength of the breeze. He decided it was fine, so he picked up a towel and wiped the oil from his hands, then went over to open it further.
Lian Jun seized the chance to pull the towel lower, covering a bit more of his legs.
The massage continued. Lian Jun closed his eyes again, but this time, he turned his head to face the window and feel the wind. His semi-dried hair danced in the gentle breeze, caressing his forehead and ears. It looked like a scene from a painting.
However, Shi Jin frowned. He put down the oil he had just picked up and rummaged around for a hairdryer. Finding it, he stood at the head of the table to blow dry Lian Jun’s hair.
Lian Jun opened his eyes and looked at him but said nothing.
“Though we’re on a tropical island, it’s still best to dry your hair after a bath,” Shi Jin said, combing the other man’s hair with his fingers. He turned the hairdryer on, expression focused.
Lian Jun watched his chin and lips move as he spoke, feeling the fingers gently touching his scalp and warm air blowing through his hair. His agitated heart calmed little by little. Almost against his will, his hand reached out and grabbed the loosely hanging hairdryer cable. It moved with Shi Jin movements; it was as if Lian Jun held his hand.
“Your hair has grown long, Shi Jin,” he said, voice somewhat husky.
“Has it?” Shi Jin let go of Lian Jun’s hair and passed a hand through his own. “It really is a bit long. Is there a hairdresser on the island? I will cut it tomorrow.”
Lian Jun thought this hand had just touched his hair, and the corner of his mouth rose. He hummed then closed his eyes, satisfied.
After taking care of Lian Jun’s hair, Shi Jin moved back to the side of the massage table. Noticing the oil on Lian Jun’s legs was almost dry, he poured out more and reapplied it. Then, he allowed Xiao Si to take partial control of his body and begin the proper massage.
Massaging the front of the legs was simpler than the back—it was mostly pressing acupoints. Shi Jin and Xiao Si cooperated, one carefully controlling the pressure, the other asking Lian Jun in the right moment how it felt. When they finally found the strength that wouldn’t make him too uncomfortable, they were able to move freely.
The muscles of Lian Jun’s legs were indeed too stiff, and a careful touch revealed slight atrophy. Shi Jin frowned and became even more attentive as he massaged. Without stopping, he asked, “Do you take care of your legs by yourself, Jun-shao?”
His legs were getting some exercise, or their condition definitely wouldn’t be this good. It seemed Lian Jun hadn’t completely given up on himself.
The other man’s eyebrows were furrowed in obvious discomfort.
Shi Jin tried to be as gentle as possible, but the neurotoxin made Lian Jun’s legs overly sensitized—even light touch caused him pain. Fortunately, it was within his range of tolerance. Also, probably because Shi Jin’s technique really was enjoyable, after the initial stabbing pain caused by blood beginning to circulate, it dulled and became more of an ache, hot and tingling. It could almost be said to be comfortable, in a strange masochistic way.
“Mm.” Lian Jun let out a low sound, either responding or groaning of pain. He felt Shi Jin’s movements stop and opened his eyes to glance at him, forcing his forehead to smooth out. “My situation is a bit different from someone paralyzed—I have feeling in my legs and can move them. As long as I do the required amount of walking every day, I don’t need special exercise. Uncle Long meant well, but he’s a bit misguided.”
Required amount of walking?
Shi Jin’s eyebrows knitted in a frown. “Walking? Jun-shao, are you doing this in secret?” Without preparation, without warming up the stiff muscles, do you simply walk, enduring excruciating pain? That’s too much.
Lian Jun closed his eyes again and replied, “It’s not really a secret… But, it’s impossible for other people to wait on me and assist me in everything—sometimes, standing and walking are necessary. After taking a bath, I occasionally walk for a while by myself.”
Shi Jin said, a bit frustrated, “It’s good for you to move your legs, but it’d be better to let Uncle Long help you relax your muscles before you walk. You could also let him keep an eye on you, in case there is a problem.”
“But it’s too unsightly,” Lian Jun said, not opening his eyes. His expression and voice were calm and unperturbed as he spoke out loud what he’d always kept hidden deep in his heart. “Someone who has to take a break after barely taking two steps, covered in sweat, and sometimes falls down… Annihilation doesn’t need such a useless, weak leader. I’m everyone’s tower of strength, I can’t let them feel anxious and worry about me.”
That took Shi Jin aback. He wanted to say that Uncle Long, Gua One, and the others wouldn’t care even if Lian Jun showed weakness during treatment but swallowed his words.
After all, criminal organizations were not the same as ordinary companies. Though Lian Jun was Annihilation’s boss, he was already at a disadvantage when it came to physical strength and ability. If his subordinates saw him looking that weak, they would probably still respect him, and be even more concerned about him. However, in their hearts, the trust, dependence, and sense of security would diminish to a degree.
It couldn’t be helped, the human mind and subconscious were not controlled by reason.
Lian Jun did his utmost to present the image of unshakeable strength, to be the pillar and spiritual leader everyone could put their faith in. The price being he could show no vulnerability, as if “poor health” and “weak body” were nothing more than descriptions of his appearance that had no real effect on his life.
Shi Jin thought back and found that in public, Lian Jun always appeared in perfect control of the situation and never showed any weakness. He didn’t require a personal service in his daily life, was perfectly groomed and dressed, and managed everything with calm confidence. He even seldom asked anyone to push his wheelchair, preferring to do it himself when he could.
He didn’t appear like an invalid at all. Apart from using a wheelchair, he didn’t cause any inconvenience to others or make them take care of his special needs, as other patients tended to do.
“Let me help you. If you want to exercise, call me over, I’ll massage and relax your muscles. And I promise I won’t tell anybody that you’re walking on your own—my lips are sealed.” Shi Jin changed the words of comfort for an offer of help. His tone of voice rose as he tried to convince Lian Jun to look forward to the future: “When you can walk without trouble, let’s surprise everyone! I want to scare Gua Two!”
Lian Jun heard his vibrant voice, filled with life and vigor, and opened his eyes to look at him. The corners of his mouth rose up. “Very well.” This person, in some matters, truly never let him down.
This “never letting him down” Shi Jin happily clapped his hands and stood, beaming with enthusiasm. “Okay, we’re done with the front, now comes the main thing. Come on, Jun-shao, turn over.” Then, he reached for the towel on Lian Jun’s waist.
The bathrobe was pure silk, very light and slippery; the towel was made of terry cloth and had strong friction. Shi Jin’s a tad-too-vigorous move removed the towel and pulled the bathrobe with it. As a result, the place that shouldn’t have been exposed was exposed.
“It’s black…” Shi Jin blinked, noticing a piece of material peeking out from under the bathrobe. His line of sight involuntarily shifted towards a certain place.
Xiao Si let out a strange machine noise, then excitedly took control of Shi Jin’s body. It reached out and patted Lian Jun’s thigh… very close to the center of his legs.
Lian Jun’s eyebrows jumped. He sat up, pulled the towel out of Shi Jin’s hand, and threw it over the teenager’s head.
When the towel covered his face, Shi Jin finally snapped out of it and yanked his offending hand back. He yelled in his mind, not daring to believe what just happened: “What are you doing, Xiao Si? Are you crazy?!” His voice changed in agitation.
Xiao Si was satisfied and didin’t intend to repent: <My hand slipped, my hand slipped… Um, JinJin, this towel covered Darling’s most important place, are you sure you want to keep it on your head? Ehe~>
The system’s fluttering tone of voice sent shudders down Shi Jin’s spine. He pulled the towel off and turned to Lian Jun, who’d already straightened his bathrobe and now looked at him expressionlessly. He let out an awkward laugh, explaining nervously, “I… My hand, my hand slipped a little.”
Lian Jun gave him a somewhat hard-to-describe look, then turned over and laid prone on the massage table.
Shi Jin breathed a sigh of relief and hurriedly returned the towel to its proper place.
After that, Xiao Si didn’t cause any more mischief, and Lian Jun didn’t speak either. The massage finished without a hitch.
Shi Jin washed his hands, sent Lian Jun to the bathroom to take another hot bath, and blew dry his hair. Then, he gathered his tools, said goodnight, and skedaddled.
With Lian Jun left alone, the room was quiet.
He sat against the headboard and moved his legs—they really felt much more comfortable. He glanced at the massage table by the French window. Suddenly, he bowed his head and chuckled, then looked at the tranquil island nightscape behind the window. His eyes gradually darkened.
“It was you who took the initiative… So, don’t blame me.”
Holidays were happy time… If you didn’t need to attend classes.
The third day on the island, the teachers Lian Jun arranged for Shi Jin finally arrived.
There were three altogether. All were high-ranking teachers with long seniority—reportedly, they’d taught Lian Jun and the Guas—and held a prominent position in Annihilation.
“Asking me to teach high-school material…” The main teacher was a small, grey-haired old man with a bad temper. He was unsatisfied with Shi Jin’s poor level of education, but strangely, when he saw the teenager, he didn’t mention it. He only sized him up and said with emphasis, “You shouldn’t do this. All the knowledge you learn is improving your mind and enhancing your strength. You have to resolve yourself and work harder—don’t waste Jun-shao’s thoughtfulness.”
Shi Jin, an “aged” student who’d lived for two lifetimes, promptly nodded.
“Well, your attitude isn’t bad.” This teacher’s surname was Feng; everybody called him Mr. Feng. Seeing Shi Jin earnestly listening to his words, he gave a reluctant nod, barely satisfied. He took out a schedule and said, “We’ll follow this class schedule: seven lessons every day from Monday to Friday, four in the morning and three in the afternoon, the weekend is free. Is that all right? Since you have no objection, that’s settled. Let’s start class.”
Shi Jin said nothing. Well, actually, he wanted to say that the old man spoke too fast and didn’t give him any chance to interject, but when he saw the teacher acting so conscientiously, he kept his mouth shut and obediently opened the textbook.
Shi Jin was bitter.
The others were playing every day, enjoying all the island’s attractions, and sailing out to fish or go scuba-diving when they got bored. He alone had to endure the miserable fate of being confined in the classroom and listening to lessons.
Oh, wait, there was only one even more miserable than he. Lian Jun, the Annihilation’s boss, had to handle the official business and paperwork every day. He didn’t even take breaks on the weekend.
One person did work in the large study, the other attended classes in one of the smaller ones. It was like an affectionate couple overcoming hardships together—was what Xiao Si said.
Shi Jin tuned out his “golden finger’s” nonsense. When he thought about the intensity of Lian Jun’s work, he couldn’t sit still. So, every time he had a break between classes, he sneaked into the other man’s study to chat with him and make him relax for a few minutes.
Happy days always pass very quickly—in a blink, the weekend came. Shi Jin didn’t have class. He woke up early, put on a comfortable tank top and short pants, and knocked on Lian Jun’s door, smiling widely. He was ready to take him outside to breathe the fresh air.
Lian Jun opened the door almost instantly. He eyed Shi Jin’s tank top, loose enough to reveal the collarbone and a bit of chest, but didn’t comment. He gestured for the teenager to come inside, saying, “Information you wanted just arrived. Come in.”
These words took Shi Jin by surprise. The happy smile on his face vanished. He nodded and followed the other man into the room.
They sat in the rattan chairs on the terrace. Lian Jun offered Shi Jin a bottle of juice, then passed him a tablet. “Everything’s here, read it by yourself.”
“Thank you,” Shi Jin said, then focused on the tablet. He opened the only encrypted file in its memory.
The data was divided into six parts. Shi Jin began reading the first.
It started with two photos—one of Shi Weichong, the other of a gorgeous, solemn-looking woman. The dates of the pictures written in a corner. Judging from them, the photo of the woman was taken a long time ago; now, she should be much older.
Shi Jin immediately realized she was Shi Weichong’s mother, Shi Xingrui’s first lover.
He examined her face closely, and his eyebrows furrowed.
Strangely enough, Shi Weichong’s mother didn’t resemble either Li Jiuzheng’s or the original ‘Shi Jin’s’ mothers. They were completely different, both in appearance and temperament. Shi Weichong’s mother was beautiful, but one look was enough to tell she wasn’t easy to get along with; the other two women were gentle and graceful.
He had vaguely guessed Shi Xingrui was looking for a woman with a particular appearance, but now it seemed this conjecture wasn’t correct.
Have I really guessed wrong?
Shi Jin shook his head and continued reading.
Shi Weichong’s mother, Xu Jie, was born in B City in a prosperous family. Her father was a senior manager in a state-owned enterprise and her mother a university teacher—both very secure jobs.
Xu Jie had been an outstanding student. She graduated from a first-class university then went to study in country Y for two years. After returning home, she entered Ruixing and became Shi Xingrui’s assistant.
Shi Jin’s mouth dropped open in surprise. He repeatedly confirmed he didn’t read wrong.
Shi Weichong’s mother was Shi Xingrui’s assistant? So Shi Xingrui put his hands on someone who worked for him? Really, this… wasn’t what he’d expected.
He digested this for a moment, then kept going.
Xu Jie worked as Shi Xingrui’s assistant for several years; in fact, she was a senior member who watched the company take off. She didn’t quit until she got pregnant, which wasn’t planned, then married Shi Xingrui and started living with him. A few months after Shi Weichong was born, she suddenly moved out and, at least on the surface, broke all contact with Shi Xingrui.
That was when Xu Jie’s father abruptly resigned from his government job, went into business, and set up a family company. Xu Jie returned home with her son and became its vice-president.
After that, Xu Jie became a powerful businesswoman, focused entirely on running the company. She dismissed anything having to do with romance and didn’t remarry, didn’t even date. After Shi Weichong gained his footing and became independent, she stepped off the scene. Now, she traveled around the world, enjoying her retirement.
Shi Jin enlarged her current picture—the years seemed to have mellowed out Xu Jie’s sharp temperament, leaving behind a gentle-looking woman. He sighed.
If one forgot all the internal disputes and entanglements and looked at Shi Xingrui and Xu Jie’s story from an outsider’s point of view, then Xu Jie was a model of the assertive, self-assured woman. She left her irresponsible scum of a husband and focused on living her life, not letting anything hold her back. She made a successful career and was a good mother who raised her son well.
No wonder Shi Weichong had such business acumen. With parents like that, if he had no talent, everyone would’ve suspected he was swapped at birth.
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