In less than five seconds, Liang Chong’s name flashed once again on Ning Yiwei’s phone screen. Gripping the vibrating device, Ning Yiwei held it as if it were a ticking time bomb.
“W-What happened?” Zhou Zirui approached and saw the name “Liang Chong”. With a somewhat puzzled expression, he asked, “I-Is it him, Yiwei? Why d-don’t you answer?”
Ning Yiwei hung up the call again and sent a text message to Liang Chong: “I’ll repay the 50 yuan into your account tomorrow.”
Then he turned off the vibration, stood up, and said to Zhou Zirui, “Let’s go.”
During the busy hours before dawn, a line of taxis pulled up at the bar entrance to drop off passengers. Zhou Zirui wanted to go to the convenience store in the alley ahead to buy something. The two crossed the street and turned into the alley.
Ning Yiwei had only taken a few steps when someone suddenly grabbed his shoulder.
“Hey, who’s this?” a deep voice sounded from behind him.
Startled, Ning Yiwei and Zhou Zirui turned their heads at the same time.
They saw a tall man wearing a black vest and a tattooed sleeve, looking down at Ning Yiwei. He spoke in a strange tone, “Isn’t this Liang Chong’s lackey?”
The man had a fierce and sinister appearance, with a wicked smile and a crazed and aggressive look in his eyes. He smirked at Ning Yiwei and said, “Do you remember me?”
Ning Yiwei instantly recalled the man’s identity, leaving him in a state of shock. He hadn’t anticipated seeing this person again. Before he could react, the man swiftly reached out and grabbed Ning Yiwei’s right arm.
The man tightened his grip on Ning Yiwei’s arm, causing him pain. A strong smell of alcohol wafted from him, enveloping Ning Yiwei. “Don’t run.”
He tilted his head, showing Ning Yiwei the long scar on the right side of his head. “Remember? It’s your handiwork.”
The alley was dark, with only a few street lights. The convenience store was about ten meters away at the entrance of the lane. During this short span of about ten minutes, hardly anyone would pass by.
Zhou Zirui, standing next to Ning Yiwei, couldn’t even offer help, let alone protect himself.
The man leaned in close to Ning Yiwei, his rough breath reaching Ning Yiwei’s nose. He sarcastically laughed. “No words? Thinking of how to escape?”
“I-Is there some misunderstanding…” Zhou Zirui weakly spoke up, extending his hand to try and pry the man’s hand open. But with a glare from the man, his hand hung in the air, unable to put it down.
“Move aside,” the man disdainfully said to Zhou Zirui, “You fat slob.”
Zhou Zirui choked back a sob but didn’t retract his hand. The man ignored him, focusing intently on Ning Yiwei, contemplating how to dismantle him to his satisfaction.
“You’ve got the wrong person,” Ning Yiwei attempted to deny, his voice growing quieter due to fear.
“Wrong person?” The man lifted the other hand hidden behind him, holding a bottle of Martell Cordon Bleu. He swung it towards Ning Yiwei, his face twisted in a fierce expression. “Even if you turn into a ghost, I would recognize you.”
That evening was the birthday of Kong Zong’s grandmother, as well as the annual gathering of his mother’s extended family.
Kong Zong’s father was in Tokyo and couldn’t conveniently return to the country. His mother was on a business trip in another city and would only return in the evening. Originally, Kong Zong planned to take a taxi there himself. However, yesterday evening, Liang Chong called him, saying he would come to D University in the afternoon to pick him up.
For Kong Zong, Liang Chong was more like an unattainable idol than a cousin with a blood relation.
Liang Chong was a frequent presence in the financial sections of magazines and newspapers in recent years. He was composed, excellent at everything he did, and seemed effortlessly capable. Kong Zong secretly admired and revered him since childhood. Liang Chong was always busy, and the two rarely had any contact in their daily lives. After receiving Liang Chong’s call, Kong Zong was so excited that he couldn’t sleep well all night.
In the afternoon, successfully driving Ning Yiwei and Zhou Zirui out of the research team, Kong Zong stood on the side of the road and saw Liang Chong getting off the car, nodding in his direction. Kong Zong felt as though the whole campus breeze was blowing for him.
Liang Chong, whom Kong Zong had only seen in the news, carried his bag and opened the car door for him. It felt like a dream as Kong Zong chatted with Liang Chong all the way to the hotel where his grandmother’s birthday banquet was held.
The banquet took place in a small hall of the hotel, with four tables set up. When Kong Zong and Liang Chong entered, Liang Chong’s parents were already seated at the main table.
Liang Chong walked over, bowed, and presented the gift to his grandmother. He exchanged a few words and then took a seat next to his father.
Kong Zong’s mother had mentioned a few times that his uncle had a weak heart, and his aunt had been worn out by the complex affairs of the conglomerate and his uncle’s illness several times. As a result, Liang Chong had never been away from D City for a long time. After graduating from university, he took over the family business. This time, when Kong Zong saw his uncle, he felt that his uncle’s complexion had improved compared to last year.
Dinner lasted until ten o’clock, without Kong Zong’s mother showing up. Only a few phone calls were made to apologize to his grandmother, saying she was stuck on the highway back to the city and wouldn’t make it in time.
Grandmother didn’t look happy. Kong Zong’s aunt advised her for a while before helping her stand up, saying she would accompany her back home. She then asked Liang Chong to drive Kong Zong back.
After drinking, Liang Chong made a phone call and had his secretary bring the car to the hotel entrance. He and Kong Zong sat together in the backseat.
Inside the car, the atmosphere was cozy and confined, while a subtle whiff of alcohol wafted from Liang Chong, catching Kong Zong’s attention and inexplicably making him nervous. Liang Chong, possibly weary, leaned back against the seat, staying silent and closing his eyes for some rest.
The backseat of this sedan wasn’t spacious. Liang Chong, being tall with long legs, couldn’t fully stretch them, so he slightly bent them, causing a wrinkle in his trousers. With Liang Chong’s eyes closed, Kong Zong’s observation became more overt. He turned his face to the side and carefully looked at his cousin whom he hadn’t seen in a long time.
Liang Chong’s hands naturally intertwined and rested on his lap, appearing very relaxed.
He was remarkably handsome, with deep-set eyes, a high nose bridge, thin lips, a well-defined jawline. When his face was expressionless, he seemed somewhat stern, but when truly interacting with Liang Chong, it felt like basking in the spring breeze. The secretary drove steadily as soft instrumental music played in the car. As Kong Zong looked on, he unintentionally became lost in thought.
Suddenly, Liang Chong’s phone rang, startling Kong Zong. He quickly withdrew his overly direct gaze and discreetly stole a glance.
Liang Chong opened his eyes, casually picked up his phone, and glanced at the message. Liang Chong seemed momentarily stunned, but then smiled with apparent delight. He sat up straight, dialed a number, and made a call.
The person on the other end answered shortly. Liang Chong lowered his eyes and jokingly teased the person, a familiar and intimate tone hidden within his words.
Kong Zong felt as though Liang Chong had transformed suddenly, his temperament drastically changing. Beneath the mild exterior, his desires and emotions faintly seeped through. The idol towering in Kong Zong’s heart had turned into a mortal being who expressed joy and anger openly.
The other person seemed to remain silent. Liang Chong raised his head with enthusiasm, asking the female secretary who was driving for him, “Laila, what can you buy with fifty yuan nowadays? And what kind of place is this… Imperial Heaven Entertainment Management Limited Company?”
The female secretary turned the steering wheel to the right while slightly turning her head and replied, “If I’m not mistaken, it should be the merchant name for FXV CLUB on Nan’an North Road.”
FXV CLUB, a well-known nightclub in the city.
Kong Zong watched as Liang Chong’s expression shifted from sunny to gloomy.
Liang Chong repeatedly dialed the number but the person on the other end hung up, the soft beeping sound of the disconnected call reaching Kong Zong’s ears. Liang Chong made several more attempts, but the person still didn’t answer. It seemed like a text message had been sent asking Liang Chong not to call again because his expression had become extremely unpleasant.
“Let’s go to Nan’an North Road first,” Liang Chong told the female secretary and glanced at Kong Zong, informing him, “We’ll take a detour to pick up a friend. It won’t delay us for long.”
Kong Zong quickly replied”Okay,” but Liang Chong seemed as if he hadn’t heard, continuing to bow his head and make phone calls. However, the person on the other end never answered again. Kong Zong guessed that they had sent a message asking Liang Chong not to call anymore because his face couldn’t have looked any worse.
During the summer break, Kong Zong had read a book on psychology. The way Liang Chong’s thumb slightly stiffened, rhythmically tapping the screen, resembled a manifestation of anxiety.
The atmosphere in the car became heavy and gloomy, making each passing second feel agonizing. Nearly ten minutes passed before Liang Chong finally stopped attempting to make the call. He cleared his throat and urged the secretary, “Drive faster.”
Just as the words left his mouth, Liang Chong’s phone screen suddenly lit up. Kong Zong saw the caller’s name displayed as “Little Slave.”
Liang Chong swiftly picked up the call, and the person on the other end appeared to be in a state of anxiety. Kong Zong couldn’t make out the words clearly but only heard Liang Chong say, “Keep talking, don’t hang up,” after ten seconds. He then raised his hand to the secretary and said, “Stop the car.”
The secretary turned the steering wheel and parked on the side of the road. Liang Chong listened to the voice on the phone, turned his head, hesitated for a moment, and said to Kong Zong, “Xiao Zong, Laila will take you home.”
After saying that, Liang Chong didn’t linger any longer. Without hesitation, he got out of the car, hailed a taxi, and walked away alone.
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