Chapter 11 – Temptation
Inside the guest room, Qing Linglong had just finished changing into new clothes. She sat down right at the dressing table, visibly bored, and waited until the time seemed right. Then, she opened the door. As she had expected, Guo Tai was standing at the entrance.
“Ms. Qing, I am truly sorry for my butler’s mistake, and I’d like to apologize on his behalf for any inconvenience he may have caused,” said Guo Tai rather earnestly as he bowed down.
“It was a simple mistake, Mr. Guo.”
“Thank you for all your hard work today,” said Guo Tai.
“It’s nothing, we’re just doing our job.”
“Ms. Qing, it must not have been long since you joined the security agency, I presume?”
“Not exactly, seeing as how I joined National Security right after retiring from the army.”
“Oh? Ms. Qing, you’ve been in the army?”
“It’s nothing worthy of praise,” answered Qing Linglong.
“It must be quite dangerous to work in the Secret Service department, isn’t it?”
“It’s relatively low-risk for me. I don’t usually conduct operations personally.”
‘Will you say something already? Your son is the one being held hostage by a murderer,’ thought Qing Linglong, slightly annoyed.
“Ms. Qing… You said that… There’s a way to save my son?” After a long series of cursory remarks, Guo Tai finally asked.
“Well…” Qing Linglong looked at the stairs behind him hesitantly.
“May I come in?” Guo Tai immediately proposed. His worries had finally settled down. ‘This is doable.’
“Of course.” Qing Linglong moved away from the door, and Guo Tai entered the room, closing the door behind him.
“Ms. Qing, let me make my intentions clear. If you can help me save my son…” The pair sat down on the red sandalwood office chairs. Guo Tai took out a check from his pocket, put it down on the side table, and pushed it towards Qing Linglong.
“Mr. Guo!” Qing Linglong instantly retreated. “You… Please have some self-respect.” She seemed outraged, with a look of horror at the prospect of the corrupting her own integrity and disappointing the very people she had sworn to serve…
“Uh…” Guo Tai was dumbstruck, and quickly put the check back into his pocket.
‘God, it’s a pain to work with these brain-washed government people…’
“Ms. Qing… This is a misunderstanding.” Guo Tai explained hurriedly, “I was… Simply overburdened by my worry for my son… I lost my calm…”
“I can understand your feelings… But…”
“Xiang’er’s mother passed away early on… He’s my only son… And you could say that I raised him all by myself… It might look like my life is blessed, but…” Guo Tai choked back a sob and his eyes reddened. It was enough to tear up anyone who saw him and distress anyone who heard him.
“Mr. Guo…” Qing Linglong seemed moved by Guo Xiang’s tale.
“If you know of a way, any way. Please help me save Xiang’er,” Guo Tai snatched Qing Linglong’s hand, very visibly agitated.
“Please do not hesitate. If you can help me save Xiang’er, my entire family will remember your kindness, Ms. Qing, and that of the country as well. After what had happened earlier, Guo Tai avoided all mentions of compensation—it seemed like national pride was what counted the most for these people.
“Well…” Qing Linglong sighed and looked at the shut door. “According to our data, Zhang Qiang was an orphan, and soon after he was born, he was abandoned by his family during winter. He was picked up by a wandering performer who raised him. Although that performer was someone whose livelihood was dependent on the generosity of passers-by, he was the heir of a clan with extraordinary skills passed on from generation to generation. Of course, something else was also passed on: a moral code, the way of the Jianghu1, so to speak.
“I see.” Guo Tai nodded. It was indeed true that even now, there were still quite a few people like that—individuals who maintained set principles that others would find idiotic.
“Zhang Qiang lived with his adopted father since his childhood, so you could say that he’s no exception to these standards.”
“But he…” Guo Tai was perplexed. ‘Then someone like him shouldn’t…’
“After his father died, Zhang Qiang, still quite young, was deceived into going to the U.S.. He went through a lot of trouble for a few years after that and, coincidentally, the navy SEALs welcomed him after they saw what he had learned from his father. During his years spent in service, he became accustomed to the corruption of politicians and the harshness of the world, as well as to witnessing death on a frequent basis. But he always held an unchanged respect and gratitude for his adopted father. Someone from a foreign security agency once found his father’s memorial tablet at the place where he stayed, but he escaped in time
“His current demeanor resulted from the many years he’d spent abroad, but his sense of honor was inherited from his adopted father. That’s why he doesn’t operate domestically.”
“I see.” Guo Tai nodded. ‘Quite a rational explanation, these people who walk the Jianghu often have strong patriotic feelings… As to what they do abroad… Well to them, foreigners are nothing more than barbarians…”
“What does this have to do with Xiang’er? I thought he wouldn’t kill innocents in the country?”
“I don’t know whether Zhang Qiang would kill innocent bystanders within the country or not, but one thing is certain, he would definitely kill Guo Xiang…”
“A debt of blood can only be repaid with blood.”
“Ugh…” Guo Tai sighed. ‘Well, I’m to blame for the death of his daughter, so he wants to kill my son. Damn those people.’ “How exactly am I supposed to save Xiang’er?”
“By confessing.” After spending a long while beating around the bush, they had finally arrived to the topic in question. Qing Linglong wiped the beads of sweat off her forehead with a discreet gesture.
“Confess?” Guo Tai did not understand. ‘Who? Me? My son? Zhang Qiang?’
“Yes, a confession. Mr. Guo, a confession from you.”
“Me?” Guo Tai was surprised at first, but quickly grasped what Qing Linglong was trying to convey. Zhang Qiang was someone used to the manners of the Jianghu, and he was also patriotic. As long as he confessed to his own crimes and received due punishment, Zhang Qiang, for the sake of the country, would seek out no more trouble. ‘We would be safe… But a confession…’
“But why wouldn’t Zhang Qiang… Make the police come for me instead?” Guo Tai had a last sliver of wishful thinking.
“Those who have power disregard the rules,”2 answered Qing Linglong in a convincing tone.
‘Of course, things pertaining to the Jianghu ought to be ended in the Jianghu by someone from it. They would never seek the assistance of the government…’
Qing Qiaoqiao halted at the exit of the hotel grocery store, pushing her head against the wall as tears filled her eyes. Li Yiming might have forgotten about it, but the communication channel between Qing Qiaoqiao and him had remained open the entire time. Not a single word of what he had said escaped her ears, and, although she suspected that there was something going on between Li Yiming and Ji Xiaoqin, she never could have imagined such a story.
Qing Qiaoqiao was angry at Ji Xiaoqin’s obliviousness to her own good luck and found Li Yiming rather idiotic. But in the end, in spite of herself, her heart ached as she listened to his narration…
“Was I mistaken?” Li Yiming picked up Ji Xiaoqin’s hand and kneaded it tightly in his own, his eyes clearly hinting at an inner turmoil.
The door to the room was suddenly shattered, and pieces of debris grazed past Li Yiming’s head, causing a flurry of wooden shards and cement dust to fall from the walls.
Li Yiming looked at entrance with shock…
At the door stood a man dressed in black, with his face hidden behind a piece of cloth. A pair of cold eyes glanced apathetically around. His presence screamed danger. Li Yiming, compelled by a burst of courage he himself did not think he had, leaped towards the M4 Qing Qiaoqiao had left on the couch.
The man in black raised his hand leisurely, shooting purple light out of his palm. The ray flew in a strange trajectory, which somehow allowed it to reach Li Yiming’s hand just as he touched the M4. Li Yiming was blasted away from the weapon as if lightning had struck him. The purple light zapped him and threw him against the wall. He fell down to the floor. The man in black walked towards Li Yiming, who moaned in pain, with a rather strange expression. Li Yiming raised his head with difficulty and looked back at him, but could not do anything more as he remained paralyzed.
“Save… Save me. He’s a terrorist and a murderer. Save me, quickly! I can give you a lot of money.” Guo Xiang squirmed on the bed at the hope of salvation.
The man in black turned around and scrutinized Guo Xiang with complete apathy.
“Save me… please, save me.” Guo Xiang inched closer to the man as he continued his struggle.
The man in black flung his wrist. Only this time, no light surged out of his palm. Instead, a dagger shot from his hand, leaving behind an after-image. Its tip pierced into Guo Xiang’s forehead. Guo Xiang’s body flew backwards from the momentum, spreading a thin bloody mist into the air as he collided against the bed frame behind him
‘He’s… dead?’ Li Yiming stared at the two with widened eyes.
The man in black beheld Guo Xiang’s corpse with disgust and turned his head toward Ji Xiaoqing. He flicked his wrist and a second, identical dagger appeared between his fingers.
“Li Yiming!” Qing Qiaoqiao’s voice came from the entrance. What followed it was the unrestrained automatic fire of the AK-47.
The man in black instantly turned around and leapt out the window with his hands in front of his head. He shattered the glass of the 18th floor and started to freefall. Qing Qiaoqiao dashed towards the window, reminding Li Yiming of just how much of a deadly guardian she was. She stopped right in front of the window, and a bazooka magically appeared on her shoulders. Her movements, from aiming the weapon to firing it, could not have been smoother.
The 21-cm rocket left a trail of flame behind it as well as a gaping hole in the ceiling as it flew towards the man in black in the air with a shrieking noise. The latter, upon hearing the sound, twisted his body into a bizarre posture and somehow managed to squeeze a dodging maneuver out of it. The projectile grazed his back and collided with a car parked on the side of the road.
The loud thud which came out of the explosion shattered many more hotel windows, but the man in black managed to land on the opposite side of the road. Qing Qiaoqiao aimed at him again with her AK-47, but the man’s figure quickly disappeared into the end of the street after a few twists and turns. Qing Qiaoqiao threw her gun down in frustration and finally glanced at Guo Xiang’s corpse and the rather horrible wound he had suffered. She dashed towards Li Yiming and asked him in a worried tone, “Li Yiming, are you okay?”
“Im… Fine…” Li Yiming managed to squeeze out a response, but his eyes remained fixated on Ji Xiaoqin, who was still laying on the bed.
Qing Qiaoqiao read his expression and let out a somewhat frustrated sigh. She stood up, stopped by the bedside, and quickly examined Ji Xiaoqin. “She’s fine.”
Li Yiming let out a sigh of relief and turned his head towards Guo Xiang.
“We have to leave, now…” Qing Qiaoqiao returned to the broken windows and peeked outside.
By now, the clamor of a panicking crowd, with its cries, shrieks of pain and gasps of horror was clearly audible, and one could already hear the sirens of the ambulances in the distance
“Help me get up.” Li Yiming had attempted twice already, but could not manage to do so.
For her slim figure, Qing Qiaoqiao’s strength was very impressive. She picked Li Yiming up from the ground rather effortlessly while looking back at Ji Xiaoqin with mixed feelings. “Should we bring her along?”
Li Yiming opened his mouth to saying something while looking at Ji Xiaoqin, but ultimately shook his head resolutely.
“Uh… Yiming?” Ji Xiaoqin had woken up at this precise instant. She gazed at the two people who stood in front of the bed and seemed very confused and lost.
“Go.” Li Yiming said in a low voice.
Qing Qiaoqiao quickly dragged Li Yiming out of the room, and only after they had reached the staircase did they hear Ji Xiaoqin’s screams of horror come out of it.
Note: sentence to chew on by Han Fei. Would you care about obeying the law if you had some kind of super power? A moment of introspection and I’ll tell you that I’ll obey the law until it goes against my intentions. x.x