Book 1 Chapter 10 – Li Yiming’s Confession
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don’t read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
“Where did you get the gun from?” Li Yiming sat on the passenger seat of the Land Rover and flashed a glance at Guo Xiang, who laid in the back with his mouth sealed shut and his limbs completely tied up, and Ji Xiaoqin, who was still in a state of unaware drunkenness. He asked the question in a rather agitated voice; although he probably would not have been able to escape alive otherwise, for such a dainty-looking girl to suddenly pull out an assault rifle out of nowhere…
“Sis gave it to me, of course.” answered Qing Qiaoqiao in a tone used to state the most obvious of truths.
“She gave you an assault rifle just like that?”
Qing Qiaoqiao turned her head in surprise and looked at Li Yiming, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ “Well, I also have two AK-47s, a set of hand grenades and an anti-armor rocket launcher.”
* * *
Kidnapping Guo Xiang was an idea Qing Linglong came up with while Eyeglasses was busy forging the ID pieces. Since Guo Tai was the one responsible for the death of Zhang Qiang’s fictional daughter, it was only natural that “Zhang Qiang” would kidnap Guo Tai’s son, and once the news reached the man himself, it would greatly increase the latter’s willingness to surrender himself.
‘I guess I really have to abandon my old ways, my old values and my old habits… Even if I don’t, it won’t take long before she utterly obliterates them.’ thought Li Yiming.
In fact, it was not long before his initiative was proven to be a wise one. After the two arrived at a five-star hotel, Qing Qiaoqiao disembarked and strolled elegantly into the front hall, coming back out two minutes later with two bodyguards who worked there.
“It’s in the backseat.” She returned to the car and gave them concise instructions, waving her hand at Li Yiming before leading the way. The two bodyguards picked up the two hostages, followed Li Yiming and Qing Qiaoqiao as they crossed the lobby, entered the elevator, and walked all the way into their rooms. During the entire time, the two bodyguards acted as if they were carrying two rug sacks instead of two human beings and completely disregarded Guo Xiang’s struggles. Everyone they met on the way showed the same kind of neglect.
The two bodyguards threw Guo Tai and Ji Xiaoqin onto the beds and turned to leave. Qing Qiaoqiao, who stood at the entrance, smirked at them playfully. “You won’t remember me, right?”
“Of course,” the two bodyguards answered mechanically and scuttled away.
“They’re all obeying you?” Li Yiming finally noticed the oddity of the whole situation. He thought about the head waiter back at the nightclub… And then about what had just happened…
“Hehe, my talent is to have anyone obey me. Isn’t it amazing?” Qing Qiaoqiao smiled mischievously, like a child showing off a new toy.
‘Charm…’ Li Yiming suddenly thought of it. ‘She really is a fairy…’
Sitting down in front of his marble table, Guo Tai recalled the scenes from a moment ago. He slowly came to a realization. ‘These people from National Security, if they really wanted to, they would probably be able to rescue my son and ‘convince’ Zhang Qiang that trying to assassinate me is a bad idea. It’s just that they would lose the opportunity to capture him. If that happened, they would also lose all hopes of recovering the military intelligence. They would rather gamble with their own lives than let such a thing happen… For cold-blooded people like them, they would trade their own lives for the sake of the intelligence… Not to mention the lives of civilians…”
Guo Tai, who thought that he had finally uncovered the truth behind the motives of his visitors, regained his confidence. ‘Vice-commissioner Wang… She’s been at this job for a long time, and has been in a high position…’ Guo Tai picked up his pen, and carefully wrote down a name on the sheet of paper in front of him. “Qing Linglong.”
Guo Xiang snapped out of his drunkenness. To be precise, he awoke from it the moment he saw Qing Qiaoqiao pull out the M4. He regretted his actions dearly now. ‘Why did I mess around with him, of all people? Who is he exactly? Isn’t he just a dance graduate from Hanzhou’s Teacher’s College? He must be bluffing… Must be…’
Guo Xiang recalled Li Yiming’s lack of hesitation when he fired the gun, and the apathy after he killed someone… ‘That’s a god-damned M4, not some toy gun! I don’t even think that the city’s police force has firepower like that… And what happened on the way here, this five-star hotel, they’re all his f*cking people! How big would you need to be? To make everyone ignore me, and not ask a single question… What professionalism, what kind of team this guy has, so that everyone plays by his rules?’
Guo Xiang had his mouth sealed, so he could only throw an pleading gaze at Li Yiming. However, the latter ignored him completely and sat down on the sofa with a cigarette he grabbed from the stand in the room. He thought he needed it to calm himself down. ‘I killed someone…’ He kept reminding himself that it was all fake, that it was nothing more than a mirage, but he really did kill someone. This was a feeling which was impossible to be understood by someone who had not committed the act.
Qing Qiaoqiao came out of the bathroom. She shook off the water on her hands, and her eyes went from the terrified Guo Xiang to Ji Xiaoqin, who was still unconscious. “Why did we bring her along?” she went close to her and covered her body with a quilt. “Do you know each other? I mean, outside of the domain. I feel that you’ve known each other for a long time.”
‘This girl…’ Li Yiming played with the match he had in his hands, and nodded in exasperation.
“Really? This big of a coincidence? How did you meet her? What’s your relationship? Friends? Lovers?” Qing Qiaoqiao looked as if she had just discovered a new continent. Even guardians were no exception to the natural inclination women had for gossiping.
Li Yiming ignored her. He put out his cigarette, closed his eyes and pressed his back against the sofa.
* * *
Qing Linglong sat on the sofa and read through the pages of the document she had in her hands. When she saw the butler arrive, she quickly closed the file folder and smiled at him.
“Thank you for your hard work, everyone. My master brought some blue mountain coffee back from overseas. Please, have a taste. It’s produced in limited quantity, and it has been a long night. I’ll have someone prepare the breakfast soon.” The butler carried a platter with three cups of coffee with his usual polite demeanor.
“Please put it over here.” Grandma Wang, per usual, did not even look in his direction, but made an effort to hide her joy. ‘It’s coming.’
“Yes, please enjoy.” answered the butler. He carefully put down a cup on the table right in front of Grandma Wang, and turned around to hand over the next cup to Eyeglasses. The latter took the cup from his hands, and, without caring about the temperature of the beverage, emptied the cup cleanly and went back to his work.
The butler did not mind the indifference shown to him and went to Qing Linglong with the last cup. The latter politely rose from her seat to receive it, but the butler’s hand suddenly shook, and, the next second, Qing Linglong was doused with the hot beverage.
The same derisory thought ran through the heads of Qing Linglong, Grandma Wang and Eyeglasses.
“Ah!” Qing Linglong screeched and shook her clothes with vigor, pretending to be utmostly offended by the accident.
“Oh, my apologies, Ms. Qing. I’m sorry… But with my age… Ah… My limbs…” The butler’s hand trembled in fear.
“Ah, it’s nothing.” Qing Linglong shook her hands. ‘This old guy is quite good at acting.’
“Could you bring me to a place where I can clean this up?” asked Qing Linglong as she took a few napkins from the table and started to wipe her clothes.
“My sincere apologies. Please follow me. I’ll bring you a spare set of clothes and have your clothes dry-cleaned right away. It’ll be quick.
* * *
The only flaw of a five-star hotel room, despite all of its qualities, was the quality of the food available, which was not enough to satisfy the demands of Lady Qiaoqiao. She had been criticizing the items on the bar counter inside the room for a while now.
“Hey, why don’t you go downstairs and get us something to eat? Don’t forget to buy enough for a few days, seems like we’ll be staying here,” proposed Li Yiming, who was shocked by Qiaoqiao’s complaints. ‘Are guardians all like that? Murder, kidnapping, illegal detainment… And now just pretending that nothing happened?’
“Why won’t you go?”
“I have no money,” explained Li Yiming.
Qing Qiaoqiao was at a loss for words.
After Qing Qiaoqiao’s departure, Li Yiming stayed in silence for a while. He walked right next to Ji Qiaoqin, who moaned in her sleep from time to time, and caressed her hair. Affection, pain, loss and nostalgia swirled within his eyes. He extended his arm and peeled away the tape on Guo Xiang’s mouth. Its removal was very painful, but Guo Xiang did not dare to raise his voice. He stared at the man standing in front of him as if he was some kind of demon.
“Do you love her?” asked Li Yiming in a cold voice.
“Hey, bro, listen to me. I really didn’t do it on purpose, I didn’t know that you… You… I… I can give you money. A lot of money. A million, nonono, five million, no, ten million. I’ll give you a lot of women, as many as you want. Bro, please let me go… Please… I beg of you… She was the one, she was the one who tempted me. Believe me, she tempted me… Really…” Guo Xiang was scared to death. ‘This isn’t a kidnapping, this is vengeance… With his background and his abilities, I’ll never be able to get out of here alive. I don’t want to die! I’m the son of the founder of Yunlong Group, and my grandfather’s all powerful…’
“I loved her…” Li Yiming ignored Guo Xiang and continued his monologue. “She used to be my everything. My dream, my future, everything in my life. She’s the most beautiful memory I have, and the brightest star under the heavens, and the treasure within my soul. She made me believe that this world can be warm, and she made me understand how happiness can come, simply from caring for someone. I’ve experienced the wildest night in my life with her, and, at daybreak, she outshone the pleasant sun that cast down its light into the room.”
Tears dribbled down Li Yiming’s cheeks as he spoke. “I really, really love her, and I told myself that I already had the entire world, and more. I’ll work ten times harder, a hundred times harder, a thousand times harder, ten thousand times harder, just to preserve this happiness, and defend this love. But… I saw it… On the day of her birthday… Just as I carefully prepared a surprise meant for her… I heard it… In front of our very home… Right downstairs from where we lived…”
Li Yiming took a deep breath. “I thought that I would be angry, but I wasn’t. I thought I would be go crazy… but I didn’t. Want to know what I did back then?” Li Yiming turned his head toward Guo Xiang and looked at him with pity, with self-pity…
“I slowly put down the bouquet of roses I had bought for her. They were her favourite, but I didn’t buy them before because I was afraid of wasting them. I’m sure that she blames me for that.
“But I bought them that day, and I slowly placed them at the door… And I hoped for her to be happy. I gave her my best thoughts…
“Then… I wandered in the streets alone… And I climbed up a skyscraper… I sat down on the fence bordering the roof. Do you know what I was thinking about back then?
“In the cold breeze, I looked down upon this city of opulence, and I thought about the cruelty of reality, and about my own worthlessness… Yes, I’m worthless… I couldn’t protect my love, nor retain happiness, nor build a future, nor protect the past… I thought about death… I hated myself for being weak… I hated my own existence… I hated this apathetic city and the unfairness of this world… But I didn’t hate her.
“I’ve never hated her. I saw her in front of our home, and I wanted to ask her, ‘How am I to love you?’, but I couldn’t open my mouth; I saw the dress she had in her hands, your gifts… I would never be able to afford those…
“I was happy for her, because she had found her own happiness. I saw her at the cocktail party, she was dressed like a princess. Elegant, dignified… she was like an angel dancing within the crowd, pure and gentle. She seemed like a queen, attractive and graceful. I wanted to rush towards her and embrace her, embrace my youth, my love, my happiness, but I couldn’t. Because I knew that she was no longer mine… She left me, my princess, my queen, my angel. She left me.
“She left me… but I don’t hate her for it. I couldn’t give her what she wanted, so who am I to stop her from seeking her own happiness?
“I thought that she had found her happiness… But I was wrong… She didn’t.” Li Yiming lowered his head and his lips trembled.
“I saw it. She was nearly unconscious from all the drinking… And her clothes were barely covering her body… Her judgement clouded…”
“And you!” Li Yiming roared in anger.
“This was what she thought would bring her happiness… But you just sat there and did nothing… Watched as she was taken advantage of… As she was tainted…” Li Yiming stared at Guo Xiang with fiery eyes.
“I thought you could make her happy, but what did you do? You pulled her toward an abyss! You pushed her into hell!” Li Yiming snarled furiously.
Note from Zhao:
Agree or not with the MC’s actions. (I certainly don’t agree completely), but do take into account that in China, right now, marriage is much more… pragmatic. Just like throughout human history, marriage is seen much more as a mean to achieve economical stability than the result of mutually shared romantic feelings. Young men, in particular, are disadvantaged in such a “competition” to get married, and become a full member of society, because there exists a severe gender balance as a result of the recently removed one-child policy. Ownership of property (house, apartment etc.), a car, and even the balance of your bank account can be deciding factors in marriage. Of course, these factors are not insignificant in the West, but they are certainly more heavily taken into consideration in China today, like it or not.
For those curious, a 3-min video about the subject from the Economist (YouTube), with India as an unfortunate victim of collateral damage.
Some of you can argue that Ji Xiaoqin, as a character, is an attack towards Chinese women, and I think that you would be right. Her actions, especially contrasted with Li Yiming’s somewhat naive forgiveness, makes her very easy to detest. I think it’s very interesting to consider this, given that most people who read online novels in China are young, and most of them who would read a novel like SN are young men, upon which the pressure of marriage can be very high and frustrating. I would think that this is a clever (although personally disagreeable) way to appeal to the readership, but it could also be that the author simply wants to criticize such phenomena which are becoming the new norm.
What do you think?