Chapter 14: Together
Lu Qi tried to think over and over again, but he could not recall when he owed Huo Ming Chen money.
He sat on the bed, contemplating, and his eyes gravitated towards the phone beside the pillow.
He scrutinized it for a second, and then a lightbulb went over his head.
The coffee shop was quiet, and had separate tables and plants for privacy.
It was a perfect location to talk business.
It seemed like it was the first time Wang Jian Guo had stepped into a place like this.
No matter how he sat, he felt restricted, especially when staring at the man opposite of him who had a blank face but gave you the feeling that he was the devil telling you your time was up.
Wang Jian Guo felt so relieved that he could breathe again,
“You finally remembered to return the money.”
And then said,
“That, um, you don’t have to return the money anymore.
These are all your identification papers that I had.
If you ever head out into society, make sure to take care of your brothers.”1
He smiled crookedly and handed a stack of paperwork over.
His hands fidgeted nervously while Lu Qi blankly checked over the papers, making sure nothing was missing.
Then he said,
“Say it straight.
Who helped me return the money.”
“This this this……”
Wang Jian Guo laughed nervously, face full of hesitation,
“You don’t really owe me anything anymore, what’s the point in asking questions?”
Lu Qi didn’t reply.
He only played with the lighter in his hand, knocking it on the table, one beat at a time, sending the rhythm straight into Wang Jian Guo’s heart.
He waited until Wang Jian Guo’s heart was in his throat before he finally said,
“Don’t blame me for not warning you, but there are some kinds of money where if you take it without knowing its origins, it can come back to bite you.
Banks have transaction records.
I’m asking you one last time, who helped me return the money…… Of course, if you don’t say it, it doesn’t matter.
Just, if it ever becomes a problem, don’t come and find me.”
Lu Qi was good at playing with people’s minds.
His words hid some things, exposed some things, making it easy to incite the deepest fear inside someone’s heart.
He could see Wang Jian Guo break out into a cold sweat, and his mouth twitched, and did not say anything else before rising up to leave —
Wang Jian Guo hurriedly shouted, turning a lot of heads towards them.
He clumsily stood up, and like he was guilty of something, dragged Lu Qi back.
“Oh you little brother, I didn’t say I wouldn’t tell you, why did you take it so seriously.”
He looked left and right, and then struggled to say,
“But I really don’t know who it was.
It sounded like it was a young man.
He asked me how much you owe, and after I told him, he hung up.
Then after that, our place was visited by Biao-Ge2, the gangster boss of this area, and his gang, and they returned the money on your behalf.”
He pulled out his phone history to show Lu Qi, and the phone number was extremely familiar – it was Huo Ming Chen.
Lu Qi could guess that Huo Ming Chen would not show up personally.
One phone call from him, and there would be people lining up to run errands for him.
“And the debt slip?”
“They’ve already ripped it up.
Biao-Ge also told me to keep my mouth shut, and not to let you know anything.
Please little brother, don’t tell anyone that I told you this.”
Wang Jian Guo was not smart, but he’s been on these streets for at least a few years now.
He’s at least learned to judge the situation, and he knew that the background of the caller was not simple.
It was not someone he as a little side character could make an enemy out of, and he just wanted to be out of this situation.
“Biao-Ge gave fifty thousand yuan, oh here’s the remaining ten thousand yuan.
We did agree that you would only need to pay up forty thousand yuan.
I’ll just pretend I did a good deed, I don’t want it, you take it.”
Wang Jian Guo took a thick envelope out of his pockets, and looked around sneakily before hurriedly stuffing it into Lu Qi’s hands.
“Please don’t let Biao-Ge find me.
I’m just a lonely small loan shark, I can’t be on their radar.”
As he stood up for the last time to leave, he took a few steps before turning back and telling Wang Jian Guo,
“9 out of 10 loan sharks don’t have a good ending.
Listen to me and wash your hands away from this business.
Go find a proper job.”
Wang Jian Guo cried on the inside, thinking that the first loan shark job he took was meeting Lu Qi, this type of person.
Who dared to continue like this? He nodded and slipped both of his hands into his pockets,
“Alright, and I’ll persuade you.
9 out of 10 people who owe loan sharks money don’t have a good ending.
Since you have already returned the money, live better in the future, don’t touch this stuff again.”
Lu Qi turned back around and went out the door.
As long as he lived, he would rather ask for an advanced paycheck loan than borrow from loan sharks.
He originally thought that he’d be fine once he returned the fifty thousand yuan.
But now, his creditor has changed hands, and he still has to continue to pay it back.
From what Lu Qi knew about Huo Ming Chen, Huo Ming Chen would definitely not take the money back, especially given their awkward situation now.
Life is always like this, going up and up and then down down down down down down down down down down.
Although Lu Qi procrastinated when returning money, if it involved the endangerment of his life, he was quick on his feet.
He schemed to get the class schedule for finance majors and found that Huo Ming Chen happened to have a class in the afternoon.
He waited right beside the classroom door, calculating when the class ended.
As he leaned against the hallway wall, he thought about a lot.
But honestly saying, if he had any practical or worthwhile thoughts, the answer is no.
There were still 10 minutes before class ended.
The cold from the concrete wall was seeping in an inch at a time into his clothes, up into his heart.
Lu Qi turned and looked through the glass window, trying to find the shadow of the person he wanted to see, but it was in vain.
Cheng Tian Yao was sitting in the last row, and saw him standing in the back doorway.
He quietly signaled to him and twisted his body mouthing,
“Are you here to find Huo Ming Chen?”
It seemed like everyone knew why he was here.
Lu Qi looked up at the bald professor lecturing non stop, and then nodded his head,
“I’ve got something to talk to him about.”
Cheng Tian Yao said,
“He’s been skipping classes.
If he’s not drinking, then he’s fooling around.
Ask that guy, Fang Qi.
He probably knows.”
Lu Qi muscles relaxed from the tension that had been growing as Cheng Tian Yao talked.
He paused and then thanked Cheng Tian Yao before leaving.
Fang Qi answered his phone, and looked at the person beside him on reflex.
He covered the phone microphone with his hand and quietly said,
“Lu Qi called, asking where you are.”
Huo Ming Chen slowly filled his glass with wine, dark eyes taking in the lights from the surrounding environment.
Maybe it was his imagination, but Fang Qi thought he said the corners of Huo Ming Chen’s mouth tug up, flashing a victorious smile,
“I knew he was going to come find me……”
Huo Ming Chen murmured under his breath, as he tightened his grasp on the wine glass.
He waited a few seconds before saying,
“Let him come over.”
Fang Qi suddenly felt relief wash over him, that big fool is coming, and he can run away.
Being brothers these days is too difficult.
Because he did not give all the information he got from his investigation, he was almost mushed into a pile of poo by Huo Ming Chen.
The address Fang Qi gave was the same bar where Lu Qi had picked up a drunk Huo Ming Chen.
Lu Qi went into the private room, and thought he would see the same situation.
Instead he found that Huo Ming Chen was wide awake, and sitting upright on the sofa.
Seeing him walk in, Huo Ming Chen lifted his eyes, and for once did not have an edge of viciousness,
Lu Qi sat beside him on another sofa chair, and took out a bank card from his pocket and placed it onto the coffee table.
“Thanks for paying off my loans.
This is to return the money to you.”
Huo Ming Chen placed down an empty wine glass on the table, and poured himself another glass.
His tone couldn’t be differentiated between mocking Lu Qi or himself,
“Did I not feed you, or did I not let you drink? For you to go borrow money, if it became known by everyone, how could I have saved face?”
He recalled then that Lu Qi has never accepted half of the things he presented him.
For a moment his heart felt like it was being squeezed and he fell silent.
Lu Qi suddenly understood.
How could Huo Ming Chen have, out of the goodness of his own heart, repaid his loans.
For Prince Huo, if word got around that someone close to him is so poor that he has to borrow money from a loan shark, it wouldn’t have reflected well on him.
“No matter what, I still have to thank you.
I hope you will accept this card.”
There was a pile of empty wine bottles beside him, and Huo Ming Chen frowned, and chugged down the glass of wine in his hand.
The burn hit the back of his throat, and it stung all the way down.
He swallowed and took a moment to recover, before saying coldly,
“Is it that embarrassing for you to use my money?”
Lu Qi did not reply, and did not know how to reply.
It was not an issue of embarrassment, as that doesn’t exist for him at all.
After all, if he was that embarrassed, he wouldn’t be anymore after spending all of Huo Ming Chen’s money in his past life.
Silence fell between the both of them, and in the end Huo Ming Chen was the first to break it.
He changed the topic,
“That day, that woman was your sister.
Why didn’t you tell me earlier……”
Up until now, he has never bowed his head before anyone else.
Apologizing was an impossible feat.
If it was someone else, they probably wouldn’t understand this, but Lu Qi knew.
Huo Ming Chen acting like this, fundamentally meant that he was backing down.
It was very lucky that in this moment, he could understand what was beneath Huo Ming Chen’s stubbornness.
Lu Qi was not that petty, and continued the path started by Huo Ming Chen, to let go of the issue,
“Her work keeps her quite busy, and she had the rare chance to visit me here at the capital.
I was just sending her back to the hotel where her boss was talking business, as it was along the way back home.”
Huo Ming Chen said,
“She’s already working? Isn’t she younger?”
Lu Qi did not want to talk about his family anymore, and just briefly said,
“She didn’t continue after high school.
She entered the workforce to support my education fees.”
Huo Ming Chen grew up in a bubble of honey.
Perhaps he has experienced sadness, or regret, but he has absolutely never experienced the pain of being human, the pain and responsibility of living as a human.
Lu Qi’s life was far too removed from his own.
If circumstances had not brought them together, Huo Ming Chen probably would not have felt this innate sense of inequality between them.
A debt of fifty thousand yuan.
To Huo Ming Chen, it was nothing more than a statement.
To Lu Qi, it meant working for a long time to save up to that amount.
Perhaps, when humans are looking up towards the infinite expanse of space, they should never forget the dust they are standing on.
Huo Ming Chen lit up a cigarette, and as his eyes watered from the hazy smoke, he softly said,
“Don’t fail your sister.
When you graduate, I can get you a spot in my brother’s company.
Then you can be registered in this district3, and send your family here to take care of them.”
He seemed to have understood how Lu Qi thought.
He didn’t straight out give him money, and instead chose another way to gift him,
“If your sister wants to come to the capital to work, let me know.
I’ll organize something.”
A sincere and heartfelt gratitude.
To be honest, money aside, what Huo Ming Chen just said was what Lu Qi desired for in this life.
This round of negotiation seemed to be more successful than expected, and cleared out the remaining issues.
Huo Ming Chen extinguished his cigarette, and hesitated before reaching out to grab Lu Qi’s hand.
He asked in seriousness,
“Do you hate me, for beating you up last time?”
Lu Qi looked down at the burning hot sensation on his hand, and thought about the question.
Something flashed across his eyes and then he chuckled, shaking his head,
“I don’t hate you.”
This chuckle went straight to Huo Ming Chen’s heart, and he felt a warmth beginning to emit inside him.
He stood up and crowded into the same sofa chair as Lu Qi.
The spaciousness of the chair began to feel claustrophobic, and Lu Qi could only move Huo Ming Chen’s body to sit on top of his legs for some breathing room.
It could be considered a good sign.
Huo Ming Chen ducked his head, and started massaging the places where he hit Lu Qi last time.
“You knew that my temper was bad.
Don’t purposely make me angry next time.”
Lu Qi looked down,
“Why would I, for no good reason, make you angry on purpose? You have terrible anger management issues.”
Huo Ming Chen was a little miffed, but as the atmosphere between the two of them was too good, he didn’t want to destroy it.
He nodded his head in earnest,
“Ok, I will fix it to the best of my ability.”
It didn’t sound like something he would say.
Lu Qi wanted to say something else, but Huo Ming Chen suddenly wrapped his arms around his neck and brought their heads closer.
As their breaths mingled,
“I saw you with someone else, and the fire inside my heart could not be contained.”
Huo Ming Chen firmly held his face, reflecting himself in those silent and contemplating eyes,
“Lu Qi, we’re going to be good in the future.
We won’t fight, hmm?”
The last sound was a little nasally, as if he was pleading to him.
Lu Qi never gave much thought to this, as he probably didn’t think they would last very long.
Huo Ming Chen has money, has power, it all depended on what he wanted after all.
When he doesn’t want to speak, let’s just kiss instead.
Lu Qi slipped his hand into Huo Ming Chen’s hair, pushing his head down for a kiss on the forehead.
If you really calculate it, the two of them were not in a cold war for very long, but for some reason, it felt like they had been separated for many years.
He migrated from Huo Ming Chen’s lips down to his throat and then back up to kiss him on the lips, leaving a wet trail in between.
At the same time, he took off his jacket slowly, and leisurely, swallowed Huo Ming Chen up.
Huo Ming Chen ached for something more.
He tightly held onto Lu Qi, and trails of saliva linked between their breaths as they kissed.
Each kiss felt like it was to make up for the time they were separated.
“Tonight, do it how you want to, to be happy, don’t worry about me.”
The words sound great, but if he really didn’t care about his partner, Huo Ming Chen would not be able to get out of bed tomorrow.
His mind came back to focus and Lu Qi pushed back to create some distance,
“Why are you hurt?”
“Fuck, why are you even asking?”
Huo Ming Chen tugged on Lu Qi’s earlobes,
“Who did you think was so kind hearted to carry you to the infirmary? Almost knocked me out.”
His hand had caught on a jagged edge of the wall when he climbed the stairs.
It was not too serious, and it was only because the doctors saw his injury when he brought Lu Qi to the infirmary and forced him to bandage it up.
Lu Qi said,
“I feel I’m pretty well liked in general, if you didn’t, someone else would have.”
“Too late, it was me who first came to your rescue.”
Huo Ming Chen has never been the silent one when he helps a person.
Whatever he did, he will pretty much announce it loud and clear that he’s helped.
He’s just missing some bells and whistles.
“I heard that guy from the physical education department yell so loudly, I thought you rolled down from the top of the stairs.
But it was only a couple steps.
That you could misstep on that tiny bit of road.”
Lu Qi with a blank face, quietly swore under his breath,
“And if it wasn’t because of you.”
“What did you say?”
Lu Qi held Huo Ming Chen’s hands, and suddenly lowered his head.
He gave a kiss to the injured part covered by bandages.
“Today, my heart will ache for you.”
Just this once.
Even if you had to say that Lu Qi was stone hearted, it’s not really so.
At key times like this, he still has a minuscule amount of sensitive human emotions.
You just can’t tell how long it will last.
Huo Ming Chen did not know why, but all of a sudden he hugged Lu Qi with force.
Lu Qi didn’t know what was going on, as he couldn’t even turn his neck.
Just as he thought Huo Ming Chen would say something, Huo Ming Chen only hugged him for a while and then let go in silence.
The author has something to say:
Just to be clear, last time little Lu only called the loan shark to meet up to return the money (underline that important part), but he has not returned it yet.
Just like how I, the author said to update what I promise you but did not do so (rubs head)
But it’s all good now, little Lu finally cleared his debt before the new year, he should have a good upcoming year now (rubs head)
*1 Just another quick reminder: brothers here mean to be close friends like blood related brothers.
In this scene with Wang Jian Guo, brothers mean the group he’s hanging out with as well as Huo Ming Chen and his group that Lu Qi mingles with.
*2 Biao-Ge: the “ge” means 哥 which translates to brother, which in this case is a honorary title (to show respect, or that to show you trust them to make decisions, or are more knowledgeable than you) The “Biao” in front is the actual name (or one part of the name) of the gangster boss.
*3 Districts: a very vague explanation but identification card lies with the district you live in and most workplaces require you to live in the city that workplace is based in, which means your identity card shows you live in that place.
There’s also other restrictions like you can’t be registered in such and such school, and other legal stuff.
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