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This was one of Wan City’s top ten international schools. Aside from its teachers and environment, it was also very unique in another aspect: it was very friendly to handicapped students. It would admit all students with disabled limbs, whether they were born with their disability or acquired it later in their lives.
The school had passageways and elevators specifically for wheelchair use, and their buses had specially designed platforms that could rise and lower. From the school buildings to the dormitories to the sports field, gardens, pathways, and other such facilities, the school had abided by overseas guidelines for handicap accessibility and set aside special installations for them. But the school didn’t only admit disabled students; rather, they gave young people like Leyao an opportunity to attend school alongside able-bodied students.
As soon as he entered campus, Leyao no longer needed anyone’s help and could move around all on his own.
The only two things that made Zhou Luoyang depressed were: one, that the tuition was way too costly, and two, that they required all students to live on campus so that they all received equal treatment.
“You have to let him grow accustomed to campus life, just like the other students,” said the head of Leyao’s grade, obviously used to dealing with anxious parents. “Otherwise, even if you’re able to take care of him for his entire life, do you plan to keep him shut up at home all the time? He needs to have the opportunity and environment to be independent, to gradually learn how to integrate into society on his own. Leyao is physically disabled, but not mentally. Look, we have students just like him who can live on campus, so why can’t he?”
Zhou Luoyang had to admit that Leyao did need such a life. Dating, marriage, and building a family and career weren’t even the concern right now. Though it was continually improving, China didn’t make for a super convenient environment for wheelchair-bound people—at least compared to developed countries, it was very lacking.
Many disabled people rarely went out, as if they were prisoners in their homes, and they didn’t want to either. Even if they’d occasionally go outside to relieve boredom, they wouldn’t venture very far from their homes if they weren’t being accompanied by someone else, much less take public transport, go on the subway, call a taxi, or anything like that. Most of them were used to getting some fresh air around their neighborhoods, that was all.
“It’s pretty nice.” Du Jing carried Leyao’s bags, big and small, into his dorm. Zhou Luoyang wanted to make the bed; Leyao, however, smiled and said, “Let me try, I can do it.”
So Zhou Luoyang stood to the side and watched as his brother worked hard to lay down the bedding from in his wheelchair. Du Jing looked around. The two-person dorm room was very spacious, with enough room for a wheelchair to move around. There were two bathrooms, one of which had no barriers to its lavatory and bath. Every day, a staff member would come to clean, and if Leyao asked it, they would also help him bathe or wait on the other side of the shower curtains for him.
Du Jing specifically inspected the window, and Zhou Luoyang knew he was thinking of the dorm they used to share. The two of them exchanged a look.
“This is much better than our old place,” Du Jing said.
Leyao asked, “See? Alright, aren’t I doing fine?”
Zhou Luoyang agreed, smiling, “Yeah, you are.”
The roommate came back and gave the three of them a nod. He introduced himself as Aaron Zhang. He was a tall, mixed boy who’d evidently just returned from class. He’d gotten the news that he was going to have a new roommate and had picked up Leyao’s campus card for him.
“Everything will be fine,” Aaron reassured. “Don’t worry. If anything comes up, I’ll give you guys a call.”
Leyao was a little bit abashed. “Thank you.”
It made Zhou Luoyang anxious that his little brother would have to interact with someone other than himself day and night, but from the looks of it, the head of the grade had kept his promise to find a responsible, polite roommate for Leyao. Aaron’s mother was of a foreign nationality and worked at the embassy; his father was a cultural scholar who seemed friendly and easy-going.
“Then Leyao will be in your care.” Zhou Luoyang didn’t invite Aaron for a meal, nor did he specifically say anything, because he didn’t think it was necessary. It was preordained whether two people would be able to trust each other. Between incompatible people, it would be of no use to do or say anything extra.
According to the head of the grade’s request, handicapped students wouldn’t get special treatment. Leyao would have to do his best to become independent, to do everything himself, and Zhou Luoyang wasn’t allowed to meddle. After checking in, he was to leave campus as quickly as possible. Du Jing inspected all of their living necessities, then went downstairs to buy Leyao some snacks from the market. Soon afterwards, Zhou Luoyang was asked to leave campus and to return Friday evening to take his brother home.
As he stood outside of the school’s entrance, staring at the school’s buildings, he knew that the students had already gone to class. From here he couldn’t see the third floor classrooms, but Zhou Luoyang knew that his brother was already in there, opening up his books and listening to his first lecture of the day.
His feelings right then were very complicated.
“Leyao wasn’t born like that,” Du Jing remarked from behind Zhou Luoyang.
“No,” Zhou Luoyang said, “he wasn’t. Before the car accident, he’d always been a happy, healthy child.”
“Which means he’ll be able to adjust to this. He’s just going back to his life from over a year ago, that’s all. He’s been waiting a very long time for this opportunity.”
Zhou Luoyang and his brother hadn’t had very many interactions since childhood. He’d only begun to raise and care for Leyao after the car accident. He trusted that Du Jing was better able to understand how Leyao felt—they’d experienced the same pain, after all.
To go into specifics, Du Jing’s problem had been troubling him for longer. His illness was congenital.
“Now what do we do?” Du Jing asked.
“I don’t know. What about you?” Zhou Luoyang was at a bit of a loss. Du Jing’s arrival had thrown his life into disorder and turned it upside down overnight. Leyao’s starting school had rather made him feel like he’d lost his objective in life.
“What were you planning on doing originally, if I hadn’t shown up?”
“Look for a business partner and discuss opening the shop.”
“Who introduced you to Yu Jianqiang?”
Du Jing’s lips twitched, and Zhou Luoyang could tell that he was silently cursing. He’d always known the two of them didn’t get along, and he asked, “Now what complaints do you have?”
“I don’t have any complaints,” Du Jing replied as he started the car.
“Where are you going?”
“Skipping work to have fun,” Du Jing said placidly. “Where do you want to go?”
Only now did Zhou Luoyang remember that Du Jing had work. “Go back to your office. It doesn’t matter which company it is, whether you’re going to work as a mole or a detective. I’ll check out the shops myself. Tonight…”
Du Jing scowled. Without saying anything, he turned the steering wheel and drove off.
Halfway through his sentence, Zhou Luoyang noticed his unpleasant expression and wondered if this guy’s illness was acting up again. He wanted to explain himself, but with Du Jing’s temper, as long as you’d already said something, there was no use explaining after that, no matter what you said.
Du Jing stopped the car on the side of the road and said only two words: “Get off.”
“Did you take your medication today?” Zhou Luoyang finally asked. “Do you not feel well?”
Du Jing didn’t respond, and Zhou Luoyang could only open the door and get out of the car.
“Please be careful driving,” he urged.
Under his watchful gaze, Du Jing drove away.
The weather had grown quite a bit chillier. Zhou Luoyang pressed a hand to his forehead and stood for a while on the side of the road. He thought, Fuck.
His phone rang, but it wasn’t Du Jing. The name flashed on the screen: Fang Zhou.
Zhou Luoyang put in his earbuds and picked up. He looked around, trying to figure out where he was. There was no way he could be angry at Du Jing; he just hadn’t yet recovered from their little disagreement. This was just the way Du Jing was—one moment they would be getting along just fine, and the next he might suddenly do a one-eighty.
“Leyao started school?” Fang Zhou asked through the phone. “I saw his WeChat Moments. Didn’t we agree I would come with you?”
“Are you free today? Come over, and I can pay you back while we’re at it,” Zhou Luoyang said.
“Where are you?” Fang Zhou asked.
“I don’t know where I am either,” he admitted helplessly.
“I wanted to check out that new school with you two. You’re okay with handing your little brother over to them? Who knows, maybe I might’ve been able to uncover some inside story.”
“Can you not say things like that, Fang Xiao Zhou!” Zhou Luoyang didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “What, you thought you’d uncover some news story about them mistreating disabled people for you to boost your work performance with? Dream on!”
Fang Zhou sent Zhou Luoyang his location. This guy was Zhou Luoyang’s high school classmate. After finishing undergrad, he began working for a magazine publisher. He’d come to Wan City a year before Zhou Luoyang did, and he was constantly roaming around with his camera in tow, taking pictures wherever he went. Zhou Luoyang knew that Fang Zhou was free on Monday mornings once he was done with his weekly meetings, but since Du Jing’s illness tended to act up more whenever he saw him, Zhou Luoyang decided not to invite Fang Zhou.
But different roads led to the same destination in the end—Du Jing’s illness acted up anyway.
Zhou Luoyang ended up deciding to meet up at Uniqlo. He would use the money he’d gotten from Du Jing to pay Fang Zhou back for now.
“You still buy clothes from here,” Fang Zhou remarked. “I couldn’t tell.”
“I’m poor, I have no other choice,” Zhou Luoyang said. “I have no choice but to wear this brand right now. Actually, they’re not so bad. They’re pretty comfortable. Now what about the business partner you’ve found for me?”
“I found another one for you. Wanna meet them tonight? Why did you pick such a large size?”
Zhou Luoyang had grabbed a shirt, underpants, sleep pants, and home wear, and tossed them in his shopping basket without giving them so much as a glance. Du Jing was 189 centimeters tall and could only wear size XXL. Zhou Luoyang was 180 centimeters tall and wore XL.
“I’m buying it for Du Jing.” In the future, Du Jing might sometimes spend the night at his place, and he wanted him to have a change of clothes.
“Du Jing came back?!” Fang Zhou asked, shocked, paying little attention to their surroundings.
“No,” said Zhou Luoyang, “but he will come back one day. Opportunity is always handed to those who are prepared, right?”
Fang Zhou’s lips twitched. He looked Zhou Luoyang up and down. “Did he contact you?”
“Try this one on.” Zhou Luoyang tossed Fang Zhou a blazer. Fang Zhou was 185 centimeters tall and of a similar build to Du Jing.
Fang Zhou was very pale, paler even than Du Jing. His features were quite delicate and pretty, and he was a model flower boy, the kind of boy that was beautiful, but in a decidedly masculine way. Some of his naturally wavy hair fell in front of his forehead like a rose blossom.
He was nothing like Du Jing, who was cool and aloof, like a firm, tough razor blade.
“How’s Du Jing doing these days?” Fang Zhou asked.
Zhou Luoyang didn’t reply. He scrutinized Fang Zhou’s reflection in the mirror and decided that Du Jing would probably look good in a casual suit.
“You decided to forgive him?” Fang Zhou asked again.
“It’s not like he did anything unforgivable. It’s been three years already, what else am I supposed to do?”
“This one looks good. I’ll wear it myself. You pick a different one for him. You would even buy clothes for someone who treated you like that—I treat you so well; how come you don’t buy me clothes?”
“He didn’t really mean it,” Zhou Luoyang said. At the same time, he thought to himself, He’s ill. He didn’t want to do that. If he could choose, Du Jing would rather kill himself than hurt me, but he can’t control his state of mind.
Zhou Luoyang didn’t explain all of that to Fang Zhou. He simply said, earnest, “I’ve decided to use my warmth as a central heating unit to positively influence this trash man, to make him work like an ox for me in order to make up for his mistakes.”
Fang Zhou studied his reflection in the mirror as well. He asked Zhou Luoyang, with an eyebrow slightly raised, “You…Luoyang, I’m curious. Are you bi or gay now? Are you…really bent now?”
Zhou Luoyang couldn’t answer that question. He himself wasn’t even sure what feelings he had toward Du Jing. To say they were best friends, well, their relationship seemed to have gone beyond the point of friendship long ago. But to say that they were lovers who’d separated and were now starting over again? The truth was, they’d never truly been together before, so how could he say they were “starting over again”?
Back then, after Du Jing had left, Zhou Luoyang had also questioned his sexual orientation. Among the three of them, Zhou Luoyang and Du Jing were both straight men. Only Fang Zhou was bent. When they were in school, Zhou Luoyang had met the two sunny, young boyfriends Fang Zhou had dated, but he never got too involved; he didn’t have much of an opinion on men.
“No,” Zhou Luoyang finally said. He glanced at his phone. A text from Du Jing had arrived:
I took the day off just so we could talk. We can go wherever you want. It’s been so many years since we last saw each other. There’s so much to say. Don’t you understand? I think you understand very well. What are you hiding from?
11:00 AM, at the company:
It was a challenging task to place the forged documents back inside Yu Jianqiang’s safe in broad daylight, especially since Du Jing was feeling unwell. Still, he succeeded.
He was like a gloomy potted plant. Sitting down at his desk, he sent Zhou Luoyang six texts with a word count totalling four hundred words. Surrounded by an intimidating air, he got up with a dark expression and entered Yu Jianqiang’s office with the file folder in hand after inputting the password on the lock. He closed the door, put on a glove, and opened the safe all in one breath and exited three minutes later. Then he called Zhou Luoyang.
All of his colleagues assumed that Yu Jianqiang had asked his assistant to bring a file to his office. No one suspected anything.
Zhou Luoyang didn’t reply to Du Jing’s texts. Du Jing opened a takeout container and began eating lunch alone at his desk. Halfway through, he was about to get up to throw away the container when he felt a hand land on his shoulder.
“What are you doing here? I was just about to look for you. Come to my office, I need to discuss something with you.” Yu Jianqiang gestured towards Du Jing, his hand shaking slightly.
Du Jing sat down and watched Yu Jianqiang, irritated. He frequently glanced down at his phone.
Zhou Luoyang called back twice. Du Jing rejected both calls, so Zhou Luoyang sent a text instead.
It’s not that your feelings don’t matter to me. We still have a lot of time together in the future and since you’re not leaving, there’s no need to rush. I really need money right now and I’ve been remarkably anxious. Can’t you just work hard for a bit so you can lend me some money?
“I’m afraid we won’t be able to keep things under control anymore,” Yu Jianqiang said. “They’ve tracked down the person who escaped that night.”
Naturally, Du Jing understood that Yu Jianqiang was referring to the whereabouts of the other blackmailer. The fall at the construction site meant that public security would be getting to the bottom of the case; they couldn’t just treat the unexplained death as a case of suicide. Yu Jianqiang had good reason not to get involved. After all, no one would expect an executive to personally show up at the site of an unfinished project to push someone off the twenty-seventh floor.
Yu Jianqiang found out from his sources that the police were looking for the victim’s underlings. Those four people often worked as loan sharks and therefore had existing offenses on their criminal records. Once they got on the police’s radar, they had no choice but to hide out.
Police investigations quickly identified the man who fled the scene that night as Wu Xingping; someone had seen him with the target of investigation at a bar. Thus, he became the primary suspect. In any case, he could serve as a witness.
Meanwhile, Wu Xingping was still hiding out in Wan City. He was currently waiting to collect a payment sum before departing.
If Wu Xingping was captured, he was bound to disclose more information, including the details of Wang Ke’s death. Yu Jianqiang had to make sure that he left as soon as possible to prevent him from causing any trouble for himself.
Yu Jianqiang mulled it over for a couple of days and ultimately decided to use money to settle the situation. Since he still had the money from that night anyway, he could give it to Wu Xingping. The amount was enough for him to escape safely and never return.
After giving it much thought, Yu Jianqiang decided it would be inappropriate to appear in person—the best candidate for the task would be Du Jing.
“Find him,” Yu Jianqiang said, “and give him 400,000 dollars. The remaining 200,000 you can keep as a service fee. Figure out who it is that’s trying to screw me over.”
“Two hundred thousand dollars is a lot. Fine, I’ll go.”
“Although I don’t know his exact location, I can provide some information to you.”
This wasn’t the first time Yu Jianqiang had been taken advantage of. He had enough experience with extortion that he was able to uncover some clues. The first time he was blackmailed for 800,000 dollars, he hired a private firm to investigate the group. He wasn’t sure how they found him, but he discovered that they had a base of operations.
Yu Jianqiang detailed the location and then reminded Du Jing, “The police are also after him. At this point, whoever finds him first wins. Don’t let the police catch on. Little Du, I’m counting on you.”
Du Jing simply nodded. After Yu Jianqiang transferred the money through his personal account, Du Jing left the company.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cat.