The atmosphere is awkward only for a second. Li Luo immediately recovers, and he gives a superficial smile. “Hello.”
He can still make an occasional joke or two with Duan Mingyang, but he’s not the slightest bit interested in joking with Duan Xingye.
To be fair, appearance-wise, Duan Xingye does look much kinder than his younger brother. Whether on newspaper and magazine covers, or at banquets and events, he always seems very approachable. There’s always a smile on his lips, and his silver tongue is well known. In the business world, he really has everything going his way — one can even say he’s the very model of how a young master should be.
Countless daughters from rich families once wanted to marry this kind, handsome young master. Yet, a few years ago, Duan Xingye had a sudden marriage with a singer, Su Zhi, breaking the hearts of all those young women.
But the marriage also painted him in quite a good light, as it went against the usual norms of wealthy families. People unfamiliar with him all praise him for being a true gentleman. As a result, over the past few years, Duan Xingye has enjoyed an excellent reputation in the business world, especially when compared to a certain aloof, asocial illegitimate son.
However, only outsiders would be fooled by this glam and glitter on the surface. Others of the same upper-class background are not fooled at all.
Li Luo has once witnessed how Duan Xingye behaves in private.
The year he turned eighteen, a bunch of friends brought him to Young Master Duan’s private party to celebrate his coming of age. There, he learned what true debauchery and promiscuity were. Girls were not seen as human beings, but rather as vessels for lust and desire.
Li Luo was so disgusted that he even threw up his dinner. Escaping to the restroom, he found a young model hiding in one of the stalls. She trembled in fear when she saw him, and he found out that she had been brought here by a friend, never knowing that it was a party like this. She was only sixteen years of age, and she cried as she begged him not to treat her like the rest of them.
At once, Li Luo pulled her up and wrapped her in his arms. Amidst the chaos, he brought her out of there. The others thought that he was bringing the girl home to have his fun with her, so they didn’t ask anything either.
From then on, he stopped contacting those friends. Also, the older young master of the Duan family also rose to the first place on his personal list of scummy bastards.
The head of the Duan family probably did too many bad deeds in his lifetime. The meanings behind the names he chose for his sons were for one to “improve his business”, and the other to “spread his name”. In the end, one is a failure who spends all his money on promiscuous parties and women, while the other is an infamous illegitimate child.
Comparatively, at the very least, Duan Mingyang’s wickedness is honest and above board. For example, when he tried to force Li Luo out of the industry, he directly informed the entertainment companies that they weren’t allowed to accept Li Luo. After changing his mind, he immediately retracted his orders, keeping his word and returning the endorsement to Li Luo. He would never stab someone behind their back.
Thus, compared to Duan Mingyang, Li Luo is much more wary of this smiling tiger in front of him.
“You don’t seem too happy to see me, Mr. Li.” Duan Xingye frowns slightly. “It’s true that what my younger brother did to you is a little overboard, but I was never a part of it, and I even tried to talk him out of it. Please don’t think badly of me.”
Li Luo’s eyelid twitches. “And what exactly are you talking about?”
“When we took over your company back then, of course. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you, Mr. Li?” Duan Xingye looks at him with a smile. “What else could I be talking about?”
Li Luo feels some relief. “It’s not the first day he views me as an eyesore. I have nothing more to say when it comes to him.”
“Mingyang’s personality is a little cold indeed, but I hope you won’t see me in the same light, Mr. Li. Personally, I do really want to befriend you.”
Li Luo scoffs. “You? Want to befriend me?”
“If you don’t believe me, Mr. Li, you can ask Miss Yang.” Duan Xingye turns to Yang Jing, a gentle smile on his face. “I often mention him while talking to you, right?”
Yang Jing’s eyes flash with an edgy confusion. She chooses to agree. “Yes, yes. Xingye often mentions you, Luo-ge.”
Li Luo responds, “You call his name so intimately, Miss Yang… Are you very familiar with him? Does he happen to be the one you’re spending tonight with?”
Yang Jing opens her mouth. She doesn’t know what sort of explanation she can provide, so she wisely shuts her mouth again.
Duan Xingye’s expression remains the same as he gives a polite answer, “Indeed, I was the one who asked Miss Yang out tonight.”
“How strange,” Li Luo mocks. “Isn’t the Huaqu award ceremony tonight as well? Isn’t Su Zhi attending it? Young Master Duan, why are you not with your wife, but here with Miss Yang instead?”
Yang Jing’s complexion immediately pales.
Li Luo knows that after making this implication, he would definitely never be able to get any closer with Yang Jing again. However, just Duan Xingye’s sudden appearance here alone clearly indicates that he has already noticed something. Li Luo probably won’t be able to dig any information out of Yang Jing, so it’s fine even if he tears off his mask.
No matter what, he’s in a bad mood. So why not just say whatever he wants?
Duan Xingye, however, remains unflustered. “Don’t misunderstand, Mr. Li. My wife knows that I’m meeting with Miss Yang. As for what we’ll be discussing, it’s not very convenient for me to share it with you.”
Li Luo snorts. The words sound false at first, but on second thought, there’s nothing really much wrong with them. It’s impossible that Su Zhi doesn’t know about Duan Xingye fooling around with so many people, and it’s indeed inconvenient for him to say what he plans to “discuss” with Yang Jing.
He’s definitely from the Duan family. His craftiness surpasses that of Duan Mingyang’s.
Duan Xingye speaks to Yang Jing with consideration, “You can wait for me in the outer ring of the exhibition. The air conditioning here is a little cold. You’re wearing so little, you might catch a cold.”
Yang Jing nods. It seems as if she doesn’t want to stay any longer either. She immediately leaves the hall.
Li Luo takes a step away as well. “Yeah, it’s really a little cold. Then I’ll also—”
Duan Xingye stops him.
“Mr. Li, I’d like to talk to you about my brother. Of course, the main reason is also that I’d like to apologize to you.”
“There’s no need. What happened then was between him and me. He should be the one to apologize.”
“You understand what my brother’s temper is like. It’s almost impossible for him to admit his fault.” Duan Xingye smiled, gesturing with his hand. “Let’s go to the lounge. I’ll take only a few minutes of your time. After all, Miss Yang is still waiting for us outside.”
Li Luo stands where he is, unmoving, as he stares at Duan Xingye.
Duan Xingye seems a little helpless. “I genuinely just want to have a good talk with you. If you really don’t want to, then never mind.”
Just as he’s about to walk away, Li Luo suddenly answers, “Sure.”
Duan Xingye turns around, beaming. “Thank you.”
“No problem.” Li Luo stuffs his hands into his pockets, speaking lazily, “Lead the way, Young Master Duan.”
One after the other, the two arrive at a lounge located in a corner of the exhibition. A “Staff Only” sign is stuck to its door. Right now, as most of the staff are welcoming the guests outside, there are probably not many people inside.
Duan Xingye opens the door and enters first. Behind him, Li Luo’s eyes sweep over the people in the room. There are five men in total, two looking down at their phones and three resting with their eyes closed.
He immediately turns back. “There are too many people here. Let’s talk somewhere else.”
With a sharp click, Duan Xingye locks the door.
Almost as if a switch has been turned on, the five men stand up with the sound and approach the two, surrounding Li Luo with expressionless faces.
“How vigilant, Mr. Li. I almost didn’t have time to lock the door.”
Duan Xingye pulls out a chair and sits down in front of Li Luo. He crosses his legs, calmly smiling. “How did you figure it out?”
Li Luo glances at the door. “They aren’t wearing ID cards.”
“I see. Oh, well. I came here in a hurry after getting the message, and I didn’t have too much time to prepare. The good thing is that I still achieved my objective.” Duan Xingye’s smile grows colder. “There’s no need to look at the door like that, Mr. Li. Nobody will come save you.”
Li Luo retracts his gaze. “Who told you I’m waiting for someone to save me? I’m just calculating the time it takes to beat you all up and open the door.”
Duan Xingye chuckles. “You have such a good sense of humor, Mr. Li. Then, how long do you think it will take?”
Hearing this, Duan Xingye leans back into his chair indolently. His smile completely faded, he lifts his chin, giving a signal to his subordinates.
“You heard him? Don’t embarrass me.”
Ten minutes later.
Scattered across the dark gray marble floor are paper, plastic cups, cardboard boxes…
And three people.
Two of them lie collapsed on the ground, their faces swollen, and their eyes shut. They’ve already passed out. No signs of injury can be seen on the face of the third one, but dust and wrinkles cover his suit. He’s held down on the ground by two people on his left and right, his arms pinned down, and a foot on his back. He’s unable to get up.
“Mr. Li, you’re indeed capable. One against five, and you can still knock out two of my bodyguards.” Duan Xingye studies his trimmed nails. “Back then, Duan Mingyang managed to knock three of them out.”
Li Luo coughs violently, his stomach clenching. His face is pale as he laughs bitterly. “But you sent over more than half a dozen people armed with clubs, didn’t you? Young Master Duan, these bodyguards of yours are really unqualified… Tsk!”
Li Luo’s hair is suddenly pulled up. A sharp, shocking pain explodes at his scalp. His eyes redden.
Turns out that Duan Mingyang hadn’t actually been that hard on him in the past…
“Did I hear correctly? Are you saying that my brother is even more capable, Mr. Li?” Squatting before him, Duan Xingye yanks his hair up, forcing him to make eye contact. “Oh, that’s right. In your eyes, he should be capable indeed. Capable in every single way.”
Slowly, Li Luo bares his teeth. He knows that whatever Duan Xingye is going to say won’t be words that he is going to like hearing.
With a cruel smile, Duan Xingye lowers his voice, but his words are still distinct.
“After all, my brother was capable of fucking you the whole night, wasn’t he?”
At once, Li Luo shuts his eyes. He grits his teeth so hard that he can almost crush them.
“Do you want to ask me how I found out? Brothers, right? Of course we’d share these videos.” Duan Xingye continues, “I really couldn’t believe my eyes. Mr. Li, you always look so proud, almost as if you don’t care about anyone, but you’re actually such a slut in bed. The blanket was over you, but your legs were really opened so wide… Tsk tsk, I could even see your feet from the edges of the blanket.”
“What? You’re embarrassed now? When you were beneath my brother, fucked until you cried and moaned about how good it felt, and, how much deeper you wanted him inside you, why didn’t you feel embarrassed at all? Oh, right. And the hair. Even after so long, you still haven’t cut it? Mr. Li, your love for my brother is truly—”
“I’m telling you to shut up!”
With red eyes, Li Luo shouts. His entire body is trembling.
Duan Xingye laughs in a low voice, pulling even harder at his hair. Li Luo’s expression twists. He bites his lips so hard that blood seeps out, like a flower blooming across his face.
“I have to say, you do look beautiful, Mr. Li. So beautiful that I can’t help but feel sorry for you, even at such a time. It’s such a shame that you gave your heart to someone without one. I only like women, otherwise, I might even love you in place of him.”
Duan Xingye pauses before he smirks again. “On second thought, never mind. My brother only fucked you once before he got tired of you. This body of yours is probably only pleasant to the eye but of no real use.”
The bodyguards around them laugh as well. With vulgar eyes, they stare at the expanse of fair neck that’s exposed.
Li Luo’s eyelashes flutter. He slowly parts his eyes, grinning weakly.
“Your brother has a good dick, so I was happy to get fucked by him. But you? With that tiny, rotten cucumber of yours?”
Duan Xingye stops. Suddenly, he lets go, standing up.
He lifts his leg, pressing the sole of his leather shoe against the side of Li Luo’s spotless face. The pressure slowly increases.
It must hurt at this point, but the one underneath him doesn’t make a single sound.
“You’re quite strong-willed, Mr. Li. I admire this part of you. But when your will is used in the wrong place, you’re asking for trouble instead.” He has completely ripped off his pretence. With a dark expression, his voice is as cold as ice.
“It’s already very kind of me today to not damage your money-maker. I suggest that you be obedient and stick to playing your celebrity game from now on. Stop fooling around with my brother, thinking about how to bring me down.”
“Duan Mingyang doesn’t have what it takes to do it. He’s only an illegitimate child who was only brought into the family later. So what if he’s favored? Whatever my dad gives him, as the heir, I can take it back. Besides, once my dad loses his hold over his power in a few years, would my mom actually allow the child of another woman to stay in her home? Sooner or later, the property would belong to my mother and me.”
“When the day comes for me to deal with him, I don’t want to have to deal with somebody else as well. Mr. Li, please think about this carefully. Do you want to fall beyond redemption with him, or go back to your dad and keep on living like a good kid?”
As his face is being stepped on, Li Luo says with difficulty, “How do you know… that after two years… your dad would be willing to pass to you his power…”
“That would be a family matter, which is none of your business.”
Like crushing a cigarette butt, Duan Xingye grinds his foot against Li Luo’s face. He then backs off and straightens out his barely wrinkled suit jacket, gesturing at the bodyguards. At once, the bodyguards release their hold on person on the ground. They then help up their unconscious colleagues and quietly retreat through the back door of the exhibition hall.
Before Duan Xingye leaves, he turns around and adds, “Oh, right. If you have time to wonder about why I didn’t attend the Huaqu award ceremony, Mr. Li, why don’t you first think about why my brother went instead?”
The door slams shut. Silence immediately returns to the lounge, the exclusion being Li Luo’s heavy breaths.
Trembling, he wraps his arms around his convulsing stomach, slowly curling up. Every single bone in his body hurts. Finally, he can’t bear it any longer and loosens his clenched teeth, letting out a moan of pain that he’d been holding in for a long time. Long and weak, it sounds like that of a man dying in a quagmire.
He doesn’t know how much time has passed. Perhaps it has only been a few minutes, perhaps it’s been an hour. Only after all the cold sweat at his forehead has evaporated and some red has returned to his complexion, does he stand up shakily, supporting himself on a corner of the table.
Next, he lifts his hands. Just like before he entered the lounge, he puts his hands into his pockets again.
He takes out a recording pen that has long since been switched on, and presses pause.