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Warehouse No. 1
As soon as he hung up the phone, Shi Weichong immediately went to find Lian Jun and told him that Xu Jie had snuck out of the hospital. Although he didn’t want to admit it, the fact that she’d disappeared at this juncture would make any normal person suspicious of her.
“Check Xu Jie’s whereabouts and anyone she’s been in contact with the past few weeks. Don’t ignore any clues, no matter how small,” Lian Jun ordered Gua One, then looked at Shi Weichong. “This time, I won’t let your mother off, even if Shi Jin pleads for you,” he said, voice freezing. “And you and the Xu family better brace yourselves as well—just blame yourselves for being related to her.” Finished talking, he waved his hand to summon Gua Three, who was standing to the side, and had him push his wheelchair out of the lounge.
Shi Weichong’s expression changed. He rushed out of the room, wanting to chase after him, but was blocked by Gua Five. “Stop. Until there’s news about Shi Jin, please rest here in the lounge.”
Fei Yujing, who had followed after him, asked with a frown, “What’s the meaning of this? Does Lian Jun want to put us under confinement?”
Gua Five looked at him, expressionless. “We’re just temporarily restricting your actions. You don’t understand the rules of the underworld. If you just go around doing whatever you want it’s likely you’ll only cause everyone more trouble, so please wait patiently and don’t interfere with the rescue.”
Fei Yujing was indeed trying to think of a way to save Shi Jin, and his expression deepened at Gua Five’s words. He recalled the conflict he bore witness to in L country; although he was a little reluctant to stay out of the rescue, he had to admit that the way underworld organizations dealt with trouble was drastically different from that of ordinary people. What he was able to do in the current situation couldn’t be compared to what Annihilation was able to do.
Pushing down his temper, he asked, “Can you guarantee that you can bring Shi Jin back safely?”
Gua Five nodded. “Yes. From what we managed to find out, Shi Jin should’ve been captured by an underworld organization hired by Xu Jie. In B city, there are only a few organizations that would dare to snatch Shi Jin from us, and even fewer who could do it so skillfully. It won’t take long to investigate them. Shi Jin is much more valuable alive than dead, therefore, according to a conservative estimate, he should be completely safe for at least the next 24 hours.”
Li Jiuzheng, standing behind his brothers, couldn’t stop himself from stepping forward. “The person who accompanied Xiao Jin must’ve seen who attacked them, right? I know a lot of excellent doctors, I can ask them for help…”
“Sorry, but you’re all under suspicion as well,” Gua Five interrupted him. “Before Shi Jin makes a safe return, we won’t let you get involved with anything related to the rescue. Please rest here and wait for news.” Motioning for the subordinates following him to “escort” the three brothers back to the lounge, he turned around and left.
His words were extremely blunt and caused Fei Yujing and Li Jiuzheng’s expressions to turn ugly. Shi Weichong, on the other hand, seemed to have collapsed; he crouched down, pressing a hand into his forehead. “If only I were more vigilant…” he whispered.
“You think it would have changed anything?” Fei Yujing tipped his head down to look at him. He almost couldn’t stand seeing the way his oldest brother looked at that moment. “Since she’s so dead set on harming him, she would’ve found an opportunity even if you tied her up. Get up—there’s no time to waste on moping, we need to save Shi Jin as soon as possible. Gua Five said that Shi Jin should be absolutely safe within the next 24 hours, but that’s bullshit. Your mother must’ve gone to meet the kidnappers—what do you think she might do if she sees Shi Jin now?”
Shi Weichong stiffened, his hands clenching.
Li Jiuzheng’s face suddenly turned pale. “The last time Xu Jie asked Xu Chuan to hire a criminal organization to kidnap Xiao Jin, her requirements were, ‘to disfigure him, cut off his fingers, and kill him, but only after torturing him. If she sees him now…”
As soon as he said this, the atmosphere sank again.
Fei Yujing pulled out his phone to call some of his contacts. Shi Weichong immediately got up from the ground and took out his phone as well, wanting to call Xu Jie and the rest of the Xu family, trying to gather as much information as possible. Li Jiuzheng also intended to call several fellow doctors who were studying under the same master and currently residing in B city and ask them to hurry to the hospital where Gua Two was.
But before they even managed to make the calls, they were stopped by Gua Five’s subordinates.
“Stop trying to make the situation worse,” the team leader warned in a cold voice, grabbing Li Jiuzheng’s phone and hanging up the call before it connected. “B city is a tangled web of competing powers—who knows if one of the people you want to seek help from could have a connection to a hostile force? If you dare to try something like this again, don’t blame me for being rude to you.”
The situation he described was not impossible. The brothers’ expressions changed, and in the end, they put away their phones with reluctance. Fei Yujing, the first to recover his calm, said, “For now, let’s stay put and wait for news. Though I don’t want to admit it, it really is better to leave the rescue to Lian Jun than for us to mess around without knowing what we’re doing.”
The three returned to the lounge, “escorted” by Gua Five’s subordinates, and each found a place to sit and wait quietly. Shi Weichong kept his head down after he took a seat, leaving the others unable to make out his expression. Fei Yujing watched him for a moment, then frowned and withdrew his gaze.
No one could offer comfort to anyone else in this kind of situation.
Over the next hour, Rong Zhouzhong and Xiang Aoting arrived at the club as well. They were also forced to stay in the lounge to “rest”.
“Are we really just going to wait?” Rong Zhouzhong snapped out, barely stopping himself from kicking the door. Catching sight of Shi Weichong hunched in the corner, he strode over and grabbed him by the collar, growling, “How the hell have you been watching your mother? Shi Jin laid everything out so clearly, so how could you still give Xu Jie an opportunity to move against him again? Shit, if I had known this would happen, I would’ve told Shi Jin to cut contact with you!”
“Third Brother!” Xiang Aoting grabbed Rong Zhouzhong and pulled him back, persuading, “Don’t say things you’ll regret later. This is already hard on Big Brother. Calm down, it’s not his fault…”
“Then whose fault is it?” Rong Zhouzhong shook his hands off. “Shi Jin’s again? Because he just had to go out to buy groceries? Are you guys going to blame everything on him again, like in the past?”
His words were really poisonous, stomping straight on the sore point. Face sinking, Fei Yujing said, “Zhouzhong, get a grip on yourself! That’s the pot calling the kettle black—you’re not in any position to point fingers, you know. Sit down and stop making trouble.”
At his rebuke, Rong Zhouzhong’s expression stiffened. Irritated, he plopped down on the nearest sofa.
Once he was released, Shi Weichong sat back down, continuing to keep his head lowered. His eyes were dark and gloomy, and his hands slowly clenched into fists—if something really happened to Shi Jin… If…
In the study, Lian Jun looked at the surveillance video of the lounge, and his finger tapped on the armrest of the wheelchair. “How is the situation at warehouse no. 1?” he asked.
Gua One glanced at the messages on his phone. “The warehouse is all set up, and Shi Jin is getting familiar with the surroundings. Xu Jie will be there in about half an hour. If we add in the time she’ll spend on negotiations with Tarantula’s branch head, she’ll be meeting Shi Jin in about forty-five minutes.”
Forty-five minutes, plus the time Shi Jin will need to stimulate Xu Jie… Lian Jun’s finger stopped tapping. “In half an hour, send someone to inform the brothers that we’ve found Shi Jin, then take them to the warehouse.”
Gua One acknowledged the order and left to make arrangements.
Lian Jun looked back at the screen of the laptop. Watching the low-spirited atmosphere in the lounge, the corners of his mouth curled up a little.
He only hoped that Shi Jin could have fun, like he said earlier.
Despite the name, warehouse no. 1 was, in fact, not a real warehouse, but an abandoned factory building.
Shi Jin had no idea that there was such a desolate and secluded place on the outskirts of B city. He looked around with curiosity as he followed Lu Shan inside.
Noticing his relaxed attitude, Lu Shan said deliberately, “Aren’t you afraid that I’m actually deceiving Lian Jun? What if I intend to catch you for real and use your life to threaten him?”
Shi Jin looked at her. “No, I’m not,” he replied, honest. “You don’t have any intention to harm me. Besides, half of the ‘kidnappers’ are members of Annihilation. You wouldn’t dare.” And most importantly, when he was close to Lu Shan, his progress bar not only didn’t rise but even fell a little. It proved that Lu Shan was a survival factor for him and would protect him in case of danger.
“I really don’t like the slick types, kid.” Unable to scare him, Lu Shan humphed. She led him to the big storeroom in the deepest part of the factory, and said, “Make yourself look roughed up, mess up your clothes a little or something, and lie down in the middle. When everything is ready, I’ll get someone to bring Xu Jie here.”
Very cooperative, Shi Jin dropped down and rolled in place to cover his body and clothes in the dirt, then rubbed his hair, making it messy. Lying flat, he looked up at Lu Shan and asked, “Is this enough?”
His actions looked very skillful—the kid was a bloody natural talent.
Lu Shan’s cheek twitched. Wordless, she waved her hand towards the several subordinates following behind, motioning for them to tie Shi Jin up, then turned away and left.
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Lying on the ground with his eyes closed, Shi Jin asked Xiao Si in his mind, “Are there any buffs that can make me look like a girl? I don’t need to look completely like a girl and it doesn’t have to be very strong—I just want Xu Jie to see me as Yun Jin every so often.”
Xiao Si was quiet for a short while, apparently searching the data. < Yes, there is, but it has side effects. This kind of appearance-changing buff with a confusion effect will have a burden on your body. After it ends, you’re going to feel unwell for a while. >
“That’s okay, that’s the kind of side effect I can handle,” Shi Jin replied carelessly, but then something crossed his mind. “Wait a moment, will the side effects last for long? School will start soon—when I go to report, there will be a physical exam, and then I’ll have to attend military training.”
The system made some calculations. < It’s fine, they won’t be affected. The side effects will last for three days at most, and they will ease as time passes. >
Shi Jin was relieved to hear that. He didn’t say anything else, quietly waiting for Xu Jie’s arrival.
An unknown amount of time passed. Just as Shi Jin was about to fall asleep, he heard the staccato clacks of high heels against a concrete floor. Members of Tarantula, who had been sitting on the side, chatting and relaxing, stood up and took positions around Shi Jin, making it look as if they were dutifully guarding him.
The lights in the storeroom were dim. Shi Jin opened his eyes; through the gaps between the guards, he saw a woman in a long skirt and a man of medium height standing at the door, talking.
“It’s not safe here, we have to move him to another place soon. We only allowed you to come here to check the goods—you can’t touch him today or I’ll have a lot of trouble to deal with,” the man said. Listening to his voice, it was the person who had negotiated with Xu Jie in the video, the head of Tarantula’s B city branch.
Impatient, Xu Jie gave him a perfunctory, “I know,” and walked towards Shi Jin.
The guards tacitly moved apart, revealing his figure.
The two people looked at each other, one standing high above, one lying on the ground, cutting a sorry figure. The situation appeared to be very unfavorable for Shi Jin.
“Hello, mongrel.” Xu Jie seemed satisfied to be looking at Shi Jin from this angle. A gentle smile on her face, she prodded Shi Jin with the tip of her shoe, taunting, “Didn’t you say that you’d kill me if I tried something again? But look at your pitiful state now. It seems that cripple you’re hanging on to didn’t protect you after all, did he?”
Xiao Si was so angry it exploded, < She called Darling a cripple! I want to punch her! >
“Calm down, be ready to give me buffs at any time.” Her words angered Shi Jin as well, but he still remained calm. After pacifying Xiao Si, he struggled to sit up and looked up at Xu Jie, giving her a toothy grin. “Sure enough, I knew it was impossible for you to give up so easily. Xu Jie, does your son know about your little scheme? Let me guess—he doesn’t. I may be in a tight spot right now, but you know what? After all this is over, you’re going to be abandoned for real.”
The smile on Xu Jie’s face disappeared. Looking at Shi Jin’s confident expression, she suddenly pulled a folding fruit knife out of her pocket and lunged at him, swearing, “Shut your dirty mouth, you mongrel!”
Xiao Si shrieked, < The progress bar is almost full! JinJin, run! >
Without a blink, Shi Jin rolled along the ground, avoiding Xu Jie’s unskilled attack. He had managed to loosen the rope binding his legs who-knows-when, and now took advantage of the opportunity to kick her.
Xu Jie was wearing high-heels; the kick unbalanced her and sent her falling to the floor, dropping the fruit knife along the way.
Perfectly calm, Tarantula’s branch head first ordered his subordinates to tie Shi Jin again, then bent down, rudely pulled Xu Jie up, and slapped her. “What did I just tell you? Don’t think that I won’t do anything to you just because you’re a customer,” he said, voice icy. “If you cause trouble one more time, you’ll be leaving here in a body bag! Hey, someone search her to see if she brought more weapons!”
The subordinates standing behind him stepped forward at once; one restrained Xu Jie and the other conducted a careful body search, which yielded a small but very sharp eyebrow razor.
“Get off me! Don’t touch me with your dirty hands! Get off!” Xu Jie screamed, mad with anger and putting up a frantic struggle. This was the first time she had ever been humiliated like that.
The branch head sneered and slapped her again. “Dirty hands? From what I see, you’re not any cleaner than us, you vicious old hag. If you dare to ignore my words one more time, I’ll cut off your ears!”
Threatened and belittled, Xu Jie shook with fury. Usually, she would’ve already exploded, but the ferocious air emanating from the other party was too intimidating. Not daring to act overbearing any longer, she pushed down the rage and forced out an ugly smile on her face. “I just lost my composure for a moment… Let me go, I want to check the goods.”
The branch head scrutinized her with a frown. Determining that she was sincere, he signaled for his subordinates to let her go and step aside.
Xu Jie touched her face that had been slapped twice and turned to glare at Shi Jin, who was once again tied up and sitting on the ground, with hatred.
Shi Jin was absolutely delighted by the wonderful performance of Lu Shan’s subordinates. Not concealing his schadenfreude, he smirked. “Oh my, what’s the matter—why is the customer getting abused rather than the goods? Right now, you look much more pathetic than me.”
Xu Jie’s expression distorted. Unable to stop herself, she stepped forward, raising her hand to give Shi Jin a slap.
The branch head coughed loudly.
Xu Jie froze. After a sideways glance at him, she reluctantly lowered her hand.
Seeing this, Shi Jin smiled again, but then his expression cooled. “You said that ‘the cripple I’m hanging on’ didn’t protect me? You’re wrong, he’s protecting me—the reason Tarantula doesn’t dare to do anything to me right now is precisely because I have such a boyfriend. And you? You’re paying them, but why is it that you’re being treated worse than me? Admit it Xu Jie: you lost to me, and you’ve always been losing to someone else. Everything you were trying so hard for, my mother could have it all with a single smile at my father; all the things you desperately fought to obtain for your son, I could have as long as I asked. Even though Dad is dead now and you seem to have won, all I had to do was tell Shi Weichong what you’d done, , and he couldn’t wait to quarrel with you and return Ruixing’s shares to me. Hey, wouldn’t you say your whole life is nothing but a failure?”
“Shut up!” Face distorted by rage, Xu Jie wanted to rush forward again.
The guards in front of Shi Jin immediately reached out to stop Xu Jie, looking at her in warning.
Unable to endure, Xu Jie struggled to push them away. “Why are you protecting him?! Don’t you want Ruixing’s shares?! You took the payment, so do what I paid you for!”
“Why are they protecting me? Of course, because they only care about their interests—they will help whoever can give them more benefits, and conversely, whoever damages their interests will suffer,” Shi Jin said before the branch head could speak. “How big is your stake in Ruixing? As long as I’m in their hands, Lian Jun will fulfill any of Tarantula’s demands. I can even give them the whole of Ruixing directly—did you forget Shi Weichong returned it to me? Xu Jie, I advise you not to overestimate your worth—as long as I give Tarantula enough benefits, they won’t have any qualms about killing you.”
Shocked and alarmed, Xu Jie looked around at the members of Tarantula blocking her way and took a step back. Turning to look at the branch head, she began, “Don’t you care about your reputation…”
“The kid is right, I’ll help whoever will benefit me the most, so I advise you to behave yourself. A gangster’s principles are pretty flexible,” the man said coldly.
Xu Jie’s face turned white. She looked back at Shi Jin, grit her teeth, and suddenly calmed down again. “When are you going to move him to another place?”
Hmm? She actually calmed herself? What a letdown.
Shi Jin felt surprise mixed with disappointment.
The branch head checked the time and replied, “In an hour. We have to secure our exit route first.”
I can afford to wait for an hour. Easing her tone, Xu Jie asked, “Can I stay here while we wait?”
“Of course, but you’re not allowed to mess around.”
“I know,” she replied, looking at Shi Jin. She began to tidy up her hair and clothes that had become a bit disheveled earlier, saying with a calm smile, “I won’t do anything, I just want to have a good chat with Shi Jin.”
Shi Jin calculated the time and returned her smile with his own. “That’s perfect—it just so happens that I wanted to talk to you too.” As he spoke, he had Xiao Si give him a buff.
Xu Jie felt as if she fell in a daze; she had the illusion that Shi Jin’s silhouette slowly faded and turned into Yun Jin’s. Her heart jumped, but when she looked again, the teenager still looked like himself. She frowned, wondering if she was too tired.
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Tarantula’s branch head left the storeroom, leaving behind Shi Jin, sitting on the ground, Xu Jie, sitting on a chair, and several guards standing around.
“What do you want to talk about?” Shi Jin broke the silence.
Xu Jie crossed her legs and ran a hand through her hair, pushing it away from her face. “Let’s see, how about… your mother’s death?”
“Sure.” Contrary to her expectations, Shi Jin didn’t lose his calm but smiled affably instead. “Since that’s what you want to talk about, why don’t we let my mother come out and reminisce about the past with you?”
Xu Jie’s expression froze. When she looked at Shi Jin, she saw the shadow of Yun Jin again, and the other woman seemed to stare back at her, eyes glittering. Her breath caught and she leaned away, almost collapsing into the chair. “Pretending to be a ghost? Nowadays, not even children would be fooled by such a trick,” she forced out.
“What do you mean? Can’t you take a joke?” Shi Jin replied, enduring the discomfort caused by the buff. As he recalled ‘his’ mother’s death, all of a sudden, his heart overflowed with malice. “Xu Jie, remember the nurse you bribed to ‘take special care’ of my mother after I was born? You were never able to find her afterward, right? Don’t you wake up in the middle of the night, afraid that she’ll step forward out of nowhere and reveal what you’ve done?”
Xu Jie felt her heart pound. Shaken, she snarled, “What do you know?!”
“What do I know?” Shi Jin raised his chin to look at her. No expression on his face, he said coldly, “I know all the dirty things you’ve done. Xu Jie, do you know what despair feels like?”
In a van on a road not far from warehouse no. 1, the five brothers of the Shi family anxiously watched as Gua One and the others put on their equipment and got off.
Looking at Lian Jun sitting opposite, Rong Zhouzhong asked, “Isn’t there anything we can do but wait?”
“This is reality, not a movie. If you want to die, go ahead,” Lian Jun replied, cold. After Gua Five got out of the car, he ordered Gua Nine to close the door.
The team members reporting the situation outside could be heard from the comm in the van; before long, the sound of gunshots followed as a firefight broke out. The brothers frowned—except for Fei Yujing and Xiang Aoting, none of them had ever witnessed a fight between underworld organizations before.
Gunshots, screams, calm commands, the sound of explosions… Nobody in the car was talking. Rong Zhouzhong and the others’ eyes were fixed on what seemed to be a burning abandoned factory not far away. When they thought that Shi Jin might be inside, their expressions became more and more ugly—the world their youngest brother was living in turned out to be this dangerous?
Shi Weichong was also looking over there, his eyes hard and dark.
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