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Zhou Luoyang entered the sauna with Du Jing. The light dimmed, but Wu Xingping never showed up.
Zhou Luoyang imagined that at that exact moment there were probably several people keeping an eye on them.
“What if he doesn’t come?” he asked.
A towel rested over Du Jing’s waist and legs, and he sighed. “Then we’ll go home and sleep after we’re done steaming.”
Doing business at this sort of place is interesting indeed, Zhou Luoyang thought to himself. Tilting his head at Du Jing, he said, “Leyao just started at his school. I don’t want him to transfer again.”
“He has to learn how to be self-sufficient,” Du Jing said, “or how will he ever be able to date, start a family? How will he get a job and provide for himself? I left home at twelve years old to go to boarding school. What he needs isn’t someone to take care of him for the rest of his life, but rather to be treated as a healthy, normal person.”
“You’re different.” Zhou Luoyang felt weak; at least Du Jing didn’t have any physical disabilities.
“Mm, I didn’t have an older brother who would’ve taken care of me forever.”
Zhou Luoyang was about to argue that that wasn’t what he’d meant, but Du Jing looked up towards the sauna entrance. A buff guy came in, his back covered in tattoos, and watched them.
“What’s your business with Wu Xingping?” The burly man was completely naked and unabashed.
“We’re here to give him money.” Du Jing answered.
The burly man’s height, girth, and the breadth of his shoulder were of different dimensions from theirs. He had a towel draped over his shoulder, and in the laid-bare setting of the sauna, as he blocked off the door, Zhou Luoyang started to have a weird feeling.
“Oh,” the burly man said. “Alright, he’s on the fourth floor. Take your time up there.”
Zhou Luoyang suspected that they had met the leader. This guy was probably the head of the blackmailer, Wu Xingping, and the rest.
As Du Jing stood up, the burly man casually said, “You’re the…guy who returned to the country from the NBA? From Changyi?”
Hearing those words, Zhou Luoyang suddenly felt that even standing there with his clothes off, Du Jing emanated an air of danger, like a cheetah before its prey, flashing a sinister warning.
But the burly man sat down in the sauna, tugging the towel from his shoulder and draping it across his waist. He faced Du Jing squarely and smiled meaningfully.
“Let’s go,” Du Jing said stonily.
When they left the sauna, there were seven or eight underlings in thin bathrobes standing outside, all watching the two.
Du Jing went to go shower. He and Zhou Luoyang each occupied a nozzle.
“You played in the NBA?” Zhou Luoyang asked, astounded. “Looks like you’ve experienced quite a lot these last three years.”
Du Jing was quiet as the water trickled down his back and shoulders. Zhou Luoyang thought for a second and chuckled, “I’m guessing that he meant some other acronym that he couldn’t remember?”
Zhou Luoyang pumped the shampoo a couple of times and heard the water stop in the neighboring stall. Du Jing walked over to stand behind him and help him wash his hair, pausing to lightly thumb Zhou Luoyang’s windpipe.
“Do you know how to do that move where you kill someone by pressing their artery?” Zhou Luoyang said. “Like in the movies. I’ve always been curious about the scientific principle behind it.”
“It’s the carotid sinus.” Du Jing circled his strong, slender fingers around Zhou Luoyang’s neck, his voice carrying a hint of menace. “It needs to be pressed for a while to be effective. It’s much simpler to just snap it, like breaking the stem of a dandelion.”
Following, Du Jing locked one hand around Zhou Luoyang’s throat, with his other hand against his chin, forcibly twisting his head slightly to the side. The heat of his palm and the overwhelming compulsion of the force made Zhou Luoyang’s heart skip a beat aggressively.
At the same time, he felt his neck pop softly, and his breathing smoothed out. Suddenly his entire body felt relaxed.
Zhou Luoyang reached out to tug on the rubber band on Du Jing’s wrist and then let it go. The rubber band slapped against his skin with a light snap.
“Where’s my gift to celebrate getting my job?” Du Jing asked.
“I’ll give it to you once it’s fixed,” Zhou Luoyang said. “We haven’t even had a moment to go get drinks yet.”
Du Jing turned off the water and left the shower room. A staff member brought them navy pants, Chinese-style bathrobes, and slippers.
“The fourth floor is that way,” someone directed Zhou Luoyang.
“Thank you,” Zhou Luoyang said politely, thinking that, thank god, they wouldn’t have to conduct any of their business naked.
Wu Xingping was already waiting in the lounge. The owner had prepared refreshments. Zhou Luoyang leaned over to eat ice cream and take a sip of juice. Du Jing looked at Wu Xingping, and all the onlookers automatically dispersed.
Wu Xingping had deeply sunken eye sockets with obvious dark circles; it was evident that he hadn’t been able to sleep for days.
“What are you doing here?” Wu Xingping’s voice shook slightly. “I don’t know anything, so it’s useless to come after me.”
Zhou Luoyang looked him up and down. That night up on the roof, everything was totally dark, and they didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of Wu Xingping’s face, so it was impossible to determine whether he was the same person as the man in front of them. But seeing as Du Jing had no doubts, he must have had his way of knowing it was the right person.
“I’m here to save your life.” Du Jing steepled his fingers without looking at Wu Xingping. After a moment of deliberation, he said, “Yu Jianqiang wants you to leave now. If you’re willing to share everything you know, he’ll offer you four hundred thousand more.”
“Tell him to fuck off!” Wu Xingping suddenly exploded in anger, shouting, “He killed my big bro!”
Zhou Luoyang almost jumped out of his seat, and he couldn’t help but to reassess Wu Xingping. He looked very young, not even twenty yet. He was dressed like any typical person on Kuaishou who was trying to eke out a living upon finishing high school. Zhou Luoyang had no idea that the death of “big bro” would affect Wu Xingping so much.
“You guys were trying to kill Yu Jianqiang and got killed instead, what did you expect? Every man for himself,” Du Jing said.
“He wasn’t planning on killing him, the plan was just to scare him! We were gonna pull him up!” Wu Xingping took several heaving breaths. What was the use of saying these things now though? The man was already dead.
Du Jing just stared at him, as if he could read his mind. Wu Xingping wasn’t so intelligent, since smart people generally had other alternatives to joining this field of work. To Zhou Luoyang, Wu Xingping’s struggles could be understood in a single glance.
Wu Xingping finally gave in. “Leave? And go where? Mu ge won’t let me go. If I get caught, it’ll cause trouble for him.”
Zhou Luoyang thought back to the burly, tattooed man from the sauna. Was he Mu ge?
“He will. Because if he keeps you here, it’ll only create a bigger mess.”
“I’ll leave if he tells me to,” Wu Xingping declared.
“Go ask him,” Du Jing replied.
Wu Xingping was still suspicious. “The cops are still searching for me everywhere. They suspect that I was the one who killed big bro. You have to escort me to safety, or else if I get caught by the cops, I’ll drag you down, too.”
“You’re not afraid I’ll kill you to keep you quiet?”
“Stop scaring him,” Zhou Luoyang chided.
“Well, it’s possible that I’d actually do it to make things easier.”
Wu Xingping was shaken by this reminder and his eyes filled with fear. At that moment, someone knocked on the door, and a young person wearing glasses walked in. The knocking was clearly just a nicety for Du Jing’s sake.
Wu Xingping was about to get up, but the young person said in a polite tone, “Boss says you can leave.” He then nodded in Du Jing and Zhou Luoyang’s direction. “I apologize for the poor hospitality.”
Du Jing spread his palms, showing that everything had been resolved.
“You can use whatever secrets you know as leverage,” Zhou Luoyang said to Wu Xingping. “Including why you made the last second decision to kill Yu Jianqiang and where all the information was from. You must know a lot of confidential information, right? You can ask him to safely escort you to your destination and then tell him everything you know, and that’ll be it.”
Wu Xingping: “…”
“Originally, I wasn’t going to do it, but I have no choice but to kill him now,” Du Jing said.
“The ice cream tastes pretty good,” Zhou Luoyang remarked.
For a moment, Wu Xingping didn’t understand whether Zhou Luoyang was working with Du Jing or if the two were actually mocking each other. His mind was stewed into paste and he was unable to clearly process everything.
“I’ll give you the chance to go home and pack, say goodbye to your friends,” Du Jing finally said. “Avoid getting caught tonight, and tomorrow at seven AM, I’ll come pick you up.”
Wu Xingping sat back without a word. Du Jing went downstairs with Zhou Luoyang to change back in the dressing room.
“Whose side are you on?” Du Jing asked.
“You wouldn’t kill him,” Zhou Luoyang said. “I don’t believe you would kill anyone.”
“What if I’ve killed people in the past?” Du Jing replied, making his way down the stairs.
“As long as you don’t describe it in detail, I can just pretend I don’t know anything. You’ll still be you,” Zhou Luoyang reassured him.
“What does one need to become a person? These were your own words. A past, present, and future.”
When the two reached the second floor and opened their lockers, Zhou Luoyang suddenly felt uneasy. He stopped Du Jing with one hand and backed up slightly.
On the second floor, there were three men questioning a staff member. Du Jing took a quick peek and backed up with Zhou Luoyang, returning to shelter behind the lockers.
“I can’t believe an NBA player would miss a detail like that. If I hadn’t gotten ahold of you, you might’ve crashed right into them.”
“I got distracted by you.”
Du Jing and Zhou Luoyang retrieved their clothes without time to get changed and returned to the fourth floor. Du Jing noticeably quickened his pace, and Zhou Luoyang struggled to keep up.
Zhou Luoyang grabbed someone and asked, “Where’s Wu Xingping?”
“I think you should take my place in the NBA,” Du Jing deadpanned. “Hurry! They’re coming up!”
The three undercover cops were already looking for someone on the second floor. It was obvious that they were after Wu Xingping. Zhou Luoyang ran to the window of the second floor hallway to check outside; there were no police cruisers.
Zhou Luoyang rushed back toward the fourth floor, brushing shoulders with the young man wearing glasses, who was hurrying down the stairs. The young man told him, “He’s on the fifth floor right now. Leave through the fire exit. He knows his way.”
The young man left to go deal with the undercover cops, and Du Jing kicked open the door to the fifth floor shower room. Wu Xingping was in the middle of a conversation with a female foot masseur.
“Come on, the cops are here,” Zhou Luoyang said.
Wu Xingping’s eyes were still swollen red, and Zhou Luoyang’s words left his head spinning. With Zhou Luoyang and Du Jing on either side of him, he was practically carried out of the room.
“Hurry, lead the way!” Zhou Luoyang snapped. “We’re taking the fire escape route. Do you have your ID on you?”
Wu Xingping nodded hurriedly, visibly rattled. Zhou Luoyang asked, “How many years have you been working with your big bro? You’ve never been caught before?”
“Don’t chat with him.” Du Jing put his weight on the handrail and slid down. He pushed open the first floor door. They could already hear rushed footsteps coming from above them—the undercover cops were right on their tail.
Du Jing glanced up, and Zhou Luoyang immediately cried, “Hey! Don’t attack the cops!”
“You boss me around more than my boss,” Du Jing said.
This was simply too exhilarating. Zhou Luoyang never would’ve thought that one day he would be evading pursuit like he was living a crime movie. Except even more exhilarating was the fact that he and Du Jing had become the criminals, helping a state witness escape!
“We’re committing a crime,” Zhou Luoyang announced.
“It doesn’t count if we don’t get caught,” Du Jing replied. “Hurry!”
“I’m wearing slippers!” Zhou Luoyang retorted. “I can’t run that fast!”
Zhou Luoyang was in a bathrobe and slippers, and he couldn’t just leave the slippers behind—he couldn’t leave any clues for the cops, even if it was only a shoe.
“Halt!” To their surprise, across the street outside was yet another undercover cop standing guard. When he saw the three of them rush out the door, he immediately ran up to them and shouted, “Who are you?!”
“Go upstairs if you want to crack down on porno!” Zhou Luoyang said.
Du Jing: “……”
“I said halt!” The cop immediately contacted his colleagues upstairs through his communicator. At the same time, he chased after the three of them, yelling, “Found the targets! Downstairs emergency exit!”
Now things were getting troublesome. Zhou Luoyang wondered which way to run, but Du Jing grabbed onto his bathrobe and tugged, exposing a pale shoulder.
“Someone is molesting me! Mister police officer!”
“This way!” Sometimes Du Jing really didn’t have the energy to deal with Zhou Luoyang’s brain circuits.
Bored, Zhuang Li sat in the driver’s seat and played games on his phone. Suddenly, he looked up and saw Du Jing and Zhou Luoyang dashing towards the car, with another person following close behind them.
Zhou Luoyang was the first to open a door and squeeze into the car. Du Jing dove in right after him. Wu Xingping looked in and ended up having to sit in the front passenger seat.
Without having to ask, Zhuang Li understood what had happened. He was well-trained; he immediately turned the steering wheel and made a U-turn. The undercover cop chased them down to the parking lot, where he stopped and took out a camera. A flash; he took a picture of the car.
Suddenly, Zhou Luoyang remembered that their license plate number exposed their identities. “Under whose name was this license plate number registered?”
“The license plate is covered by a black cloth,” Zhuang Li said. “Don’t worry. We always make sure to cover up the license plate when we come to the bath center.”
Wu Xingping was still rattled as he sat in the front passenger seat. Zhuang Li reminded him, “Buckle your seatbelt.”
Zhou Luoyang gasped for breath in the backseat.
“That was too much excitement,” he panted.
“That was nothing,” Du Jing said coolly. He undid the buttons of his bathrobe and pulled at the collar. He peeled it off and revealed the slim, perfect muscles of his upper body.
“Where to?” Zhuang Li drove onto the freeway, then got off of it. After making a few detours, he parked on the side of the road, quickly hopped off, and removed the black cloth blocking their license plate. Zhou Luoyang was also changing in the backseat. It was very cramped back there, and if they weren’t careful, they would bump into each other’s bare skin.
Du Jing first put on his trousers and buckled his belt before pulling on a shirt. Zhou Luoyang quickly changed back into leisurewear. He asked, “Let’s go to my house? There’s no one home.”
“Uh…” Zhuang Li glanced at Du Jing in the rearview mirror.
Du Jing instructed, “Go to the bullet train station. Buy tickets for tonight. Two of them, to anywhere.”
When Wu Xingping heard him say that, his entire person sagged in relief.
“Three tickets,” Zhou Luoyang corrected.
Du Jing didn’t protest. He buttoned his collar, put on his blazer, and reassumed his composed, distant appearance.
“The company doesn’t compensate employees for family members’ tickets,” Du Jing said coolly. “You’ll have to pay for it yourself.”
“That’s okay, you have plenty of money,” Zhou Luoyang said.
At the bullet train station, Zhuang Li bought a random ticket and walked them inside.
Zhou Luoyang casually remarked, “Life is full of unforeseen events.”
“Should I buy you guys some snacks?” Zhuang Li asked. “There might not be anything to eat on the train at this hour.”
“I don’t eat snacks,” Du Jing said. “Neither does he.”
“I do. Is your company still hiring?” Zhou Luoyang asked. “I can be an assistant too.”
Zhuang Li was trying his best. “What if you get hungry on the train? I’d better buy some anyway.”
Du Jing took a luggage bag stuffed full of money out of the trunk. He told Zhuang Li, who’d rushed back from buying food, “Take this home and don’t touch it.”
Three sleeper carriage tickets. Each cabin could accommodate two people and contained a bunk, a small table, and a couch.
The bullet train set off. Zhou Luoyang was still staring at the station platform on the other side of the window—there were no plain-clothed cops on their tail. The train gradually picked up speed. Once the platform and its dim lights faded out of sight, Zhou Luoyang was finally able to relax completely.
Du Jing got up, knocked on the neighboring door, and dragged Wu Xingping over. He propped a foot up on the side of the couch and bent to tie the laces on his leather shoes. Without looking up, he said, “The four hundred thousand under the bunk in your room is what I’m giving you. Now talk.”
“Is this train headed for Hangzhou?” Wu Xingping asked. “I’ll pick a stop to get off at along the way. Then, I’ll call and explain.”
Du Jing shot Wu Xingping a glance. On the couch, Wu Xingping involuntarily inched back.
Zhou Luoyang opened up the snacks Zhuang Li bought and said, “I really want to take you out to silence you. Why would you bring such heavy cash out? Don’t you find it troublesome?”
“You two are pulling a good cop bad cop routine.” Wu Xingping remained unmoved. “You arranged this beforehand.”
Zhou Luoyang handed Du Jing a bottled drink. Du Jing twisted the cap off effortlessly and handed it back to him.
“It’s for you,” Zhou Luoyang said. “Aren’t you thirsty after taking a shower?”
“Later.” Du Jing cracked his knuckles. Wu Xingping realized he was about to get beaten up and immediately blurted, “I’ll talk!”
Du Jing paused. He took out his voice recorder and placed it on the table. Then he took the bottle and downed the entire drink in one go. He wiped his mouth dry and lifted an eyebrow as if to say, Talk. Don’t make me use my fists.
Wu Xingping sucked in a deep breath. He glanced out the window, then at Du Jing.
“My big bro, he…Do you know his name?”
“Not interested in a dead person’s name,” Du Jing said. “Who had you blackmail Yu Jianqiang?”
“I don’t know,” said Wu Xingping. “Someone overseas. Some planted agent who raises ATMs. They told us that if we c-could fleece…the money…we could split it thirty-seventy.”
“Explain it better,” Du Jing said.
Zhou Luoyang rarely made contact with criminal activities. When he listened to Wu Xingping’s explanation of the industry, he was startled. Wu Xingping had been brought into this profession by his big bro, who was a minor head working underneath Mu Ye, the guy who opened up the bath center, and had six underlings. This bath center specifically ran criminal businesses—well, you could call it criminal, but they’d become much more subdued because of recent government policies. Their main scope of business now was collecting on all sorts of online loans and predatory loans.
Zhou Luoyang was kind of curious about loan sharks. After all, just a while ago, he was so broke that he himself had considered taking out one of those loans that would cut his principal. But after careful consideration, he decided not to make trouble for himself.
But Wu Xingping didn’t explain the debt-collecting industry in too much detail. Instead, he gave a detailed description of a different line of business that made them quick money: extortion.
Every year, many people who had committed financial crimes would flee the country. Because of the threat of extradition treaties, many would go into hiding in countries like the United States or Mexico, where they couldn’t be extradited. After they fled the country, the Chinese side often had to seek help from the international criminal police. As time passed, their cases could only be temporarily set to the side.
Those who’d committed financial crimes typically possessed important evidence of their partners’ involvement—including government and private sector collusion, embezzlement of assets, and even murders triggered by disputes. Those who fled were used to the life and expenses within China. After leaving the country, many fell into gambling. Their money would flow away like water, and very quickly, they would use up all of the money they brought with them.
In order to make more money, they would offer up yet uncovered dirt on their former accomplices to local informants so that they could blackmail their former accomplices who were still in China.
After obtaining the evidence, the informants would send it back to China to people like Wu Xingping’s big bro for them to handle. There, they would handle the cadence of the extortion process on their own and tread right above the boundary that meant their victims would not yet report them to the police and would be willing to dish out money to settle the affairs.
After getting their hands on the money, the extortionists—namely, Wu Xingping’s gang—would get thirty percent of it, while the remaining seventy percent would be sent overseas by means of money laundering.
Yu Jianqiang was a prime example of someone who had caught their attention and had been turned into an ATM machine. The ones who’d sold him out were the couple that had choked Wang Ke to death and then fled the country to distant places. Overseas, they were destitute and frustrated, and so they made their way from person to person and finally found a Chinese gang in the States, to whom they offered many records that had been kept while Wang Ke was alive, including company contracts, in order to extort Yu Jianqiang.
In order to protect everything that he had, Yu Jianqiang had no choice but to submit obediently. In the span of three months, two million had been funnelled out of him.
“Like…kind of like the Southeast Asian pig slaughter scam,” Wu Xingping said.
“The methodology is pretty well-refined.” This was Zhou Luoyang’s first time coming into contact with this scheme, but there was still one thing he was confused about. Since they’d already gotten their hands on the money, why would they still want to commit murder?
Du Jing already knew about this supply chain. His sole concern, too, was Wu Xingping’s answer to this question.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cat.