Chapter 317: When it’s over
The group did not leave Starry Splendour that day.
News was unceasingly transmitted over from the outside world.
At around 9pm, there had still not been any suspicion or anything at all which involved Xu Tingsheng. There seemed to be no logical connection at all between him and this car crash.
Some might know that there had been a conflict between him and Ding Sen before. Yet, Ding Sen had been arrogant and overbearing in the height of his glory, having gotten into conflicts with many people indeed. Xu Tingsheng did not really stand out amongst them.
Also, it was currently Ding Miao who was in charge of the affairs of the Ding family. He would be their first line of defence as he worked hard to get this matter over and settled. After all, if this matter was exposed, he would bear a much greater responsibility than Xu Tingsheng and Huang Yaming.
Gazing at the four youngsters in front of him, pondering for a time with a solemn expression on his face, Wu Kun finally said, “It should be fine now. We are the only ones who know about this, and the four of you are bros. So, the only ones you need to worry about now…are me, and that Tongtong. She doesn’t know everything, but if others learn of this, they would easily be able to guess at the truth. As for me, I know everything.”
They all turned to look at Wu Kun.
In the heat of the moment, they had not previously thought about this. With things having been settled now…actually, thinking about it, it really seemed pretty troublesome that Wu Kun was in the know about this.
Yet, no one would have thought that it would be Wu Kun himself who would speak up, directly bringing this matter into discussion.
“Find a time over this couple of days. Come over for a meal at my house, you four…meet my wife and kid,” Wu Kun smiled, meeting their gazes.
The four of them all stood up, because this exchange of goodwill, or rather revealing of their paramount interests, was just too complete and irreversible too.
“Bro Kun…” Fang Yuqing wanted to say something but ultimately refrained.
Wu Kun waved a hand, “It’s fine. I have thought about it. I’m a profit-seeking and intelligent person, so if I hadn’t carefully thought about this, how would I have made such a decision? Treat this as my token pledge of allegiance. You won’t refuse, right, Tingsheng?”
With Wu Kun having said things to this extent, Xu Tingsheng knew that he who, as Fang Yuqing put it, ‘loved gambling’…had finally decided to go all in in betting on him, putting even his family on the line.
Also, he wanted to wash himself clean. Even as he wished to board Xu Tingsheng’s vessel in venturing forth, he also wanted to wash himself clean.
Herein contained Wu Kun’s positive appraisal of Xu Tingsheng’s capabilities and prospective achievements as well as approval towards his character and personality.
“I’ve never registered with my wife, but we are no different from a married couple,” Wu Kun smiled, adding, “We also have a son. He’s eight years old this year.”
As a ‘successful character’ in his thirties, everyone knew that Wu Kun did not lack women. Still, those who knew if he was married were few and far between. Even those mere few who were aware of this had virtually all never seen his wife and son before. Virtually no one knew how they looked like, where they lived.
Fang Yuqing had not known about this before.
It could be said that in having climbed up to his position of power, Wu Kun had lived on the edge of bloodied blades. It was a sort of life where even tomorrow might not happen for sure, with enemies all around. He was very clear and cognisant regarding the lifestyle that he had.
In being ruthless and unscrupulous, he was prepared to be given ‘an eye for an eye’ at all times…
He headed valiantly forth towards those assaults, whether overt or covert, that he might face at any time. Still, he had always concealed and protected his wife and son extremely well for fear that they might be hurt because of him, that they might be used to threaten him in the future.
Therefore, in having invited the four of them to his house for a meal to meet his wife and child, he was actually revealing his weak point to Xu Tingsheng, much like a ferocious beast showing its softest, most vulnerable belly.
After Wu Kun had finished speaking, he looked at Xu Tingsheng. The gazes of the other three guys fell on Xu Tingsheng as well.
With the other party already having been so upfront and sincere with him, Xu Tingsheng could naturally not give ‘pleasantries’ to sound him out, playing ‘games of trust’ with him.
“Thank you, Bro Kun. We won’t stand on ceremony then. We’ll be imposing on you for a meal soon. We haven’t had a chance to greet Sister-in-law, anyway,” Xu Tingsheng smiled, saying.
Wu Kun nodded, “Good. Actually, your Sister-in-law’s great at cooking. It’s just that it’s flavour from the river areas and a bit on the spicy side. Can you all stomach this kind of food?”
They all expressed that it was fine. As people of Libei, Xu Tingsheng and Huang Yaming actually also preferred food that was on the spicy side.
“One more thing,” Wu Kun continued, “That brat of mine can’t study. He’s too mischievous. Tingsheng, see if you have any way of educating him for me. You’re specialised in this area.”
“If he’s too mischievous, it’s because you dote on him too much. I’ll deal with him good when I see him. Don’t feel pained then, Bro Kun,” Xu Tingsheng smiled.
“Deal with him all you want,” Wu Kun laughed loudly, “Actually, my son’s been taking lessons at your training institute all along. My wife’s known about you since long ago too. When I told her about you, she didn’t believe me at first. How would a gangster possibly know you, she said. She’s actually wanted to meet you since then. You’re very famous, kid!”
Xu Tingsheng said, “That’s true.”
The atmosphere eased at once.
This relaxed atmosphere only persisted for a short while. Soon afterwards, there was a knock on the door which disrupted the joking mood. At Wu Kun’s response, the door was pushed open. Tongtong walked in, the person who had brought her leaving and closing the door.
Before Xu Tingsheng could speak, Wu Kun beat him to it. He reported Tongtong’s actual name, specific situation, current address, hometown address as well as familial situation, including the circumstances of her close kin.
Then, he asked, “Did I get anything wrong?”
Tongtong shook her head nervously, “No, it’s correct.”
Wu Kun looked at her.
Just being looked at by him alone, Tongtong began shivering all over.
“Tell us about the matter of that phone. How exactly did you get it?” Wu Kun asked.
Tongtong had previously said that she had picked up the phone from somewhere. Due to the urgent nature of the situation, they had not had the time to ask about this previously. Now, it was necessary to make things clear.
“I picked it up,” Tongtong responded before immediately continuing, “No…not me, I…”
She succinctly recounted the entire process of that sex scam outside and how she had gotten her hands on that phone as well as how she had discovered the contents within. She narrated this in careful detail, not leaving anything out at all.
She dared not make Wu Kun have to investigate and find this out on his own, only being able to honestly account for everything now first before she bowed deeply, “Sorry, Bro Kun. I don’t dare, I’ll never dare to do this again.”
Wu Kun raised a hand to stop her, saying, “I can let you go regarding this for now. I won’t pursue the matter here.”
Hearing his words, Tongtong looked greatly emotional as she nodded non-stop, “Thank you, Bro Kun.”
“But there’s something else now, and it’s very troublesome,” Wu Kun said, “We don’t want anyone finding out about that phone. What method do you think guarantees safety here?”
For someone to keep a secret forever, what method guaranteed safety the most?
Beads of sweat unceasingly rolled from Tongtong’s forehead and the tip of her nose. There were also tears which trickled down her face on by one.
“After you die, I’ll get someone to send one million yuan to your family. How about that? Wu Kun asked calmly.
Tongtong collapsed to the floor, sitting on it as she said with great difficulty, “Bro Kun, I… I won’t tell anybody. Really, I won’t say anything even if I die. I…”
“And how I am supposed to trust you?” Wu Kun asked.
“I, I’m scared. I’m scared of dying, and I’m also scared of anything happening to my family. Also…I like him. I like Xu Tingsheng…I really do like him. I won’t harm him. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been so nervous at the time,” Tongtong pointed at Xu Tingsheng, explaining desperately.
Xu Tingsheng could only force a smile.
Wu Kun leaned in, the two conversing in hushed voices for a while.
As Tongtong was Xu Tingsheng’s life saviour, Xu Tingsheng would definitely not repay kindness with enmity. As for Wu Kun’s words from earlier…
Firstly, it was a threat. It was not just Tongtong who had been threatened as her whole family had been as well. This was necessary in order to guarantee safety and just had to be done. Trying to stop it would instead be a foolish thing to do.
Secondly, it was to create a chance for Xu Tingsheng to better act as the ‘good cop’.
This was basically some version of ‘carrot and stick’.
Wu Kun spoke no further.
Only the sound of Tongtong desperately trying but just failing to suppress her sobs could still be heard.
After a while, someone delivered two hundred thousand in cash to the door.
Xu Tingsheng took the money and supported Tongtong up, reaching out to wipe the tears off her face as he smiled warmly, “Relax, I trust you. You saved my life. Thank you. Look, if not for how coincidental it was initially, with me having chosen you to block wine for me, afterwards…”
Listening to him speak and looking at him, the light slowly returned to Tongtong’s eyes.
She actually did not understand Xu Tingsheng all that much. Still, Xu Tingsheng’s way of handling things gave one an inexplicable feeling of warmth and trust. Previously, he had not treated her like a nightclub lady, never looking down on her or treating her as being of a lowly status. She had helped him to block wine and take care of Lu Zhixin, and he had thanked her sincerely in kind, leaving her his number…on meeting again, he had joked with her like friends, bringing her a present.
He had let Tongtong feel like she had returned to those days when she had worked at that electronic factory. She had been called Zhang Shuiling then, having foolishly and naively dreamed of better days.
As compared to Wu Kun, Tongtong trusted Xu Tingsheng more, believing that he would not repay kindness with enmity and ruthlessly harm her despite her knowing such a huge secret.
“I will take this to the grave with me, even,” Tongtong looked into Xu Tingsheng’s eyes.
“Yeah. Thank you for saving me. Also, thank you for saying that you like me,” Xu Tingsheng smiled.
Then, he passed her the money.
Her face red, Tongtong did not accept it as she said, “I don’t want it. I don’t want your money. I never thought of getting any money.”
“I know, you just wanted to save me,” Xu Tingsheng said, “Still, you can’t not accept this money. This is my thanks to you, but also the fee to keep things secret. More importantly, having taken this money, you will have participated in this affair too, henceforth never being unrelated to this matter. We will be able to feel more at ease this way. Do you understand?”
The last thing he had said was rather realistic and heartless. Still, Xu Tingsheng had to do this.
Looking at him, Tongtong nodded, reaching out and accepting the money, saying as she held it, “It’s good like this. I won’t harm you. Now that I’m in it with you, if something happens to you, it’ll get me involved as well. It’s good like this…”
While she was limited in expressing herself, the meaning conveyed here was really very simple. Even if Xu Tingsheng were to kill someone now, she would be happy to add in a stab, becoming an accomplice.
Xu Tingsheng led Tongtong over to a chair to sit down.
“After this, you have to stay here for a while. You don’t have to continue your original job. If you feel bored, just help to take care of some other things…I will increase your wages multifold. As for how to explain this to the others, think of it yourself,” Wu Kun said.
“They’ve always known that I’m not so willing to do this. I, I’ll just say that I got Xu Tingsheng to plead on my behalf, with you, Bro Kun, hence helping to arrange some other work for me. Then, in the future…I’ll only come over to accompany him when he comes next time.”
At the end, Tongtong spoke rather shyly. Still, the happiness on her face was evident to all. She was finally able to stop living that kind of life. Also, the meaning of her words was basically that she would be telling everyone that Xu Tingsheng was upkeeping her, just keeping her at Starry Splendour and not taking her away…
Even though this wasn’t real, Tongtong was still rather happy as she thought of it.
Quite a few people at Starry Splendour knew that there was a bit of a special relationship between Tongtong and Xu Tingsheng. Xu Tingsheng had been nice to her those two times, while he was also on very close terms with their boss, having an important status to Wu Kun.
Therefore, it was not difficult to believe something like this.
Wu Kun looked at Xu Tingsheng who nodded, turning to Tongtong as he said, “This is fine too. After this, you can take the time to learn about wine storage or management or whatever. We’ll be opening a bar at the end of the year. If you’re willing, you can go over there to work then and be a manager or something.”
“I, I’m willing,” An overjoyed Tongtong nodded, not misunderstanding at all that Xu Tingsheng just wanted to keep an eye on her.
“Actually, I think it’s high time you consider marriage,” Xu Tingsheng smiled, “Look for a good guy over there. I’ll prepare you your dowry and act on behalf of your family’s side.”
Tongtong was slightly despondent, but just slightly. She was well aware of some matters. Xu Tingsheng was already helping her to change her life, repaying her with a chance at ‘rebirth’. There might even be quite a decent future which awaited her. She dared not hope for more.
“Right,” Looking at Xu Tingsheng, Tongtong nodded and replied.
Leaving Starry Splendour, Fang Yuqing drove home alone. The other three borrowed a car from Starry Splendour, with Xu Tingsheng driving it. The cold wind blew through the window with a bit of a slicing feeling as it gusted straight to the chest. Light unceasingly trickled in, the pedestrians vanishing into the distance along the streets…
At this moment, that feeling of just having experienced a ‘conflict of life and death’ finally slowly sank in. In this first such incident in his two lifetimes, at this moment, he felt like a soldier on a battlefield pulling his blade out of the corpse of the enemy in this first ever battle, next leaving the battlefield.
His close shave with death replayed unceasingly within his mind.
There was not really the excitement and joy of victory. Xu Tingsheng seemed to see another version of himself that was becoming increasingly foreign to him. These two Xu Tingshengs waved goodbye to each other. Perhaps this was a necessary qualitative change he had to experience in this lifetime where he had stepped onto a completely new path.
“I hear that after policemen shoot someone dead for the first time, they all have to receive mental counselling. Say, does this count?” Tan Yao asked jokingly.
Huang Yaming said calmly, “I don’t, at least.”
Xu Tingsheng did not speak.
The car stopped at a traffic junction. When the light changed to green, Xu Tingsheng did not register it despite a long time having passed. Only when the cars behind began honking incessantly and Tan Yao shoved at him from the front passenger seat did he react.
He found a place that he could park at. Then, Tao Yao took over the wheel.