Qin Mu had no desire to continue cooking after hanging up the phone. He took up the phone and resumed phoning Guo Guo, but each time the busy tone came on, his heart fell deeper till it reached the bottom of the abyss.
He thought that something had gone wrong with Guo Guo.
The caller identified himself as Shao Qingyu and said he was a friend of Guo Guo’s business who needed to speak with him privately about Guo Guo. Qin Mu didn’t know him, and Guo Guo hadn’t introduced him to anybody else. It so happened that he did not like the lavish lifestyles of those hedonistic wealthy people’s sons. He likes to go on hikes and mountain climbs with a group of kindred spirit people in his free time.
It says that Qi Heng guards his same-sex lover very well and has been in love for many years, but no one knows the real story. When asked what sort of person may penetrate his eyes, Qi Heng smiled and did not respond.
Qin Mu called back, but Shao Qingyu just stated he would come to him and hung up, leaving Qin Mu to wonder how Shao Qingyu had gotten his number.
That guy didn’t even bother to ask for his full address.
There had never been a time before when Qin Mu’s calls to Guo Guo went unanswered. Guo Guo used to text him right away, even though it was difficult to communicate while he was in a conference. So, after hundreds of unsuccessful attempts, he just gripped the phone and froze.
A little while later, the phone rang again.
Qin Mu regained his senses and connected the phone: “Hello?”
“Mr. Qin, I’m downstairs right now.”
The man’s voice over the phone was low and somewhat rough, but still calm and focused.
Qin Mu got up from the couch, opened the floor-to-ceiling window curtains, and peeked below. Downstairs, a black commercial vehicle stopped discreetly. A man’s reserved laughter sounded over the phone: “Mr. Qin, I see you.”
Qin Mu brushed the drapes shut and walked towards the door.
The person had already been out of the vehicle and was leaning against it, smoking a cigarette when he came downstairs. The guy turned to face Qin Mu’s side as he heard footsteps, he let out a little puff of smoke from his lips. His voice was rusty, with a stone-polished hoarse sound, not as magnetic as it sounded on the phone, “Hello.”
In a somber tone, Qin Mu looked at the other person and said, “What about Qi Heng?”
The respondent didn’t bother to answer, instead asking casually, “Don’t you invite me to go up and sit?”
Qin Mu remained quiet for a few seconds as he realized that speaking out there was impolite, and started guiding the way upstairs.
The guy smiled, stomped out the stubs of his cigarettes, and started walking in Qin Mu’s direction. Unhappy, he avoided Qin Mu at all costs as he moved. Qin Mu came inside, made two cups of tea, and sat across Shao Qingyu, saying, “Now you can talk about it.”
Shao Qingyu lifted the tea cup and gently blew on the floating tea leaves. He took a little drink, set the cup down, and crossed his arms. “To sum up, Mr. Qin, you are probably aware of the Qi Group’s present predicament. Since Uncle Qi was my father’s close friend, I extended a loan to Qi Heng three months ago to help boost the company’s revenue. The final payback date has already passed.”
Qin Mu’s eyes jerked, and his tone stiffened at the news. “How much money did he owe?”
“You can’t afford that amount anyway.”
Shao Qingyu was only stating the truth, not to laugh.
Now, all that Qin Mu is interested in is finding Guo Guo. Phone calls to Guo Guo went unanswered and by chance, Shao Qingyu gave him a call. Qin Mu knows that a lack of touch between Guo Guo and himself can’t be a coincidence and must be tied to the guy standing before him.
This guy, Shao Qingyu, caught his significant attention. He possessed attractive facial features, a high nose, narrow lips, and a composed demeanor. Although he sat with an apparent lack of formality, his calm manner reflected his position in society. Qin Mu scowled as he dug through his memory to try to recall where he had last seen Shao Qingyu, but he couldn’t.
However, how could he know that his last name was Qin? Is it possible Guo Guo told him?
Qin Mu looked doubtful, and Shao Qingyu’s gruff voice heard again: “Mr. Qin, I believe you might not remember me. I met you at the drinking party hosted by Fang Dong.”
Because Qi Heng disliked him for showing his face, Qin Mu had never attended any drinking parties. The only occasion he recalled was when Qi Heng called him intoxicated and asked him to drive to pick him up. It was almost late, and Qin Mu dressed inconspicuously, so he should have gone unnoticed.
He did not linger on the subject, instead refocused on Qi Heng: “Can you let me know where Qi Heng is right now?”
Shao Qingyu did not go around in a circle with him but instead relaxedly answered while leaning back on the chair: “He is in my hands now. I always have to get something from him because he can’t afford the money.”
Qin Mu’s dark eyes locked on the other person’s in an instant of realization as the thought in his head was verified.
“What do you want?”
“What do I want?” Following a brief pause, Shao Qingyu’s eyes went around the man’s body as he said, hiding a weak tone. “Such as Qi Heng’s life.” The other man’s finger on the coffee table shook slightly when he said this, and Shao Qingyu smiled casually. Then, he went on to say, “Another example is….”
“Like what?” asked Qin Mu, attempting to control his voice.
Qin Mu is not so dumb that he can’t decipher the subtext of the other party’s statements; he had Guo Guo in his hand, but he decided to disregard it in pursuit of ﬁnding himself; the point of his visit was obvious.
There have undoubtedly been many ‘singing and dancing beauties’ who have developed a strong liking for him through the years and begun to pursue him fervently, but Guo Guo has always managed to foil their efforts.
As soon as Guo Guo lost momentum, someone approached him.
Shao Qingyu made no attempts to impose any pressure on Qin Mu after seeing his silence. Once again, he lifted his teacup to his lips and said, “This tea is good.”
The tea is good; depending on the other person’s identity and what sort of tea he hasn’t consumed.
Qin Mu didn’t say anything for a while.
He reflected on the eighteen years he had spent with Guoguo, from eight years old until he was twenty-six. Throughout that period, the two of them had never been apart. As measured in terms of a century, Guoguo has just crossed the quarter mark of his life. Qin Mu hopes he and Guoguo will age together and never part ways.
It would be painful if Guoguo realized he had rescued himself by selling his body.
Qin Mu spent a lot of time considering. He believed his life was worth Guo Guo’s if he died, but then he remembered that his grandmother was abandoned and had no one to look after her. And Guo Guo’s goal was to bring back Qi’s Group. He had no desire to go out this way. Qin Mu couldn’t hold back his laughter at his own introspectiveness. Where does human life draw the line for abandonment? The fact that you’re alive gives you some measure of optimism.
Then he drew himself up to meet Shao Qingyu’s dark, penetrating gaze. Qin Mu inquired indifferently with defeated eyes, “How long?”
“Okay, I promise.”
Qin Mu was instructed to relocate to Shao Qingyu’s villa on the same day, with the latter making a show of inviting inspection.
When Qin Mu asked him when he might let Qi Heng back, Shao Qingyu immediately responded, saying it may be tomorrow. After a minute, Qin Mu grabbed the luggage and started packing. While he folded and packed the garments inside the box, Shao Qingyu stood next to him and observed. He said abruptly, “Don’t pack up. Just tell me what you want to wear, and I’ll get them for you.”
Qin Mu didn’t budge an eyelid but stated coldly, “No need.”
He prepared his belongings for Qi Heng to see. If Qi Heng returned and didn’t find him, he could directly call and explain that he was out on vacation. After collecting his belongings, Qin Mu zipped the box and stood to face Shao Qingyu. “I don’t want Qi Heng to be aware of the matter between us.”
Shao Qingyu stared at Qin Mu, a grin tugging at the corners of his lips. “Why? After sleeping with me, do you still want to go back to Qi Heng?”
“No, I’m going to end things with him.”
Shao Qingyu’s eyes lit up with perplexed expressions after hearing this statement, and he remained unusually silent.
Qin Mu didn’t say a word the whole way there, only stared out the window at the fading retrogressive scenery. Shao Qingyu’s gaze slid gracefully from Qin Mu’s attractive eyebrows and eyes, through his high bridge of the nose and pale lips, and down to the man’s exquisite concave collarbone. The guy wore a white button-down shirt today, with the top two buttons undone. He was sitting straight upright, giving off a pious yet irreverent aura.
The fingertip resting on Shao Qingyu’s knee contracted slightly, and when he expanded his hand again, he carefully put his palm on the back of Qin Mu’s hand. He became aware of Qin Mu’s deliberate attempt to disengage from his grasp. Shao Qingyu’s fists clenched as he held on hard to Qin Mu’s right hand.
His hands clasped so tightly that the whites of his knuckles were visible.
“Don’t forget the deal we made.”
A frigid voice echoed in his ear at the precise time, and Qin Mu halted without trying to draw his hand away.
Then there were no more words exchanged, and the atmosphere went from silent to spooky, while Shao Qingyu’s hand grasped Qin Mu’s hand firmly, even though a thin perspiration leaked from his palm.
The butler was already keeping watch outside when they got there. With a courteous bow, he addressed “Mr. Shao.”
Shao Qingyu hummed softly and said, “Are the rooms completely organized?”
“As you requested, we have completed everything.”
“That’s great.” Shao Qingyu swiveled around to face Qin Mu, who was waiting aside. His thin lips raised in a subtle invitation, “Come here.”
Qin Mu strode directly to his side, without responding to the man’s extended hand.
“Let’s go inside.”
Without hesitation, Shao Qingyu removed his hand and remarked softly. As he was ready to take a step forward, the cautious words of the butler came: “Mr. Shao, here comes the second young master.”
Shao Qingyu’s expression hardened.
A person emerged at this time, shouting in a panic, “Brother, you’re back.”
Seeing the visitor’s face clearly for the first time, Qin Mu almost shouted out the name of the person who had been hidden for so many years.