Edited by Planetes
Li Shuo called a friend in the judicial system, asking him for help in investigating the matter, then returned home, feeling shaken up.
Thinking over and over again, he could only think of one person he had offended recently, and that was Shao Qun. Otherwise, with his character and personality, Li Shuo really could not think of anyone whom he had such bad relations with.
Shao Qun was Li Chengxiu’s ex-boyfriend. However, Li Shuo was really unwilling to use the word “boyfriend” to describe that person. That person was merely a bastard who did not know the meaning of respect — only because he had clout. How could Li Shuo give Li Chengxiu up to a person like that?
Li Shuo returned to his room. He sat down at his desk, staring in a daze at the laptop in front of him, feeling extremely heavy-hearted. In the dark, he brooded over the matter for a long time, before slowly switching his laptop on and pulling out Benhui’s files.
Benhui Properties was one of the companies Li Shuo started working with when he first established his firm. The boss of the company was from the north, with an easy-going, elder brother-like character. To Li Shuo, he was a pillar of support, and the two shared a deep personal friendship.
However, this person had a shortcoming, and it was that he was too ambitious. He sought to expand his company very quickly, and in the end, he picked up too many projects, and caused a major shortage in his cash flow. Li Shuo could still remember that late night many years ago, the boss had looked for him and suggested that they cooperate to falsify an account book good enough to get the bank to approve a loan. As long as his projects started progressing, he would immediately be able to pay the loan back. No one would know about it, and Li Shuo would even gain some of the shares of his company.
Without even thinking about it, Li Shuo had refused. He never ever went against his conscience for money, and neither was he willing to deal with anything so risky.
As such, the boss had gradually distanced himself from Li Shuo.
However, as their contract had yet to end, the audit at the end of the year was still handled by Li Shuo. At that time, Benhui’s accounts were far better than his original assessment, and it seemed watertight, with no issues anywhere, so Li Shuo was naturally suspicious. There were no falsified accounts that could completely pass off entirely as a real one, and if the auditor were to carefully examine every detail, they would definitely find the flaw. He did not inform any of his subordinates, working overtime for three full nights alone. Among the immense amount of data, he found the proof of falsification, and so he questioned the boss.
Until today, Li Shuo could not forget how that man, around the same age as his father, cried and begged him, vowing repeatedly over and over again that things would work out. Because of their friendship, Li Shuo finally gave in. Hopefully, after the projects made a profit, the loan could be paid off without anyone being alerted to the issue. As such, he feigned ignorance of the entire matter, and prepared his audit report according to the falsified accounts.
Based on this audit report, the bank approved 1.2billion in loans to Benhui.
When the Dongchuang incident occurred, the boss never mentioned Li Shuo’s name, nor was there any evidence that was disadvantageous towards Li Shuo. As such, Li Shuo had only made a few testimonies, lost a tiny, insignificant bit of reputation, was fined a sum of money, and he was free from this case. Other than that boss and him, no one else knew about his involvement.
However, Li Shuo had never once felt that his conscience was clean.
That was the biggest mistake he made in his life, and the decision he most regretted. Countless times, he condemned himself for not having stopped the matter. While watching his friend make such a reckless move, Li Shuo himself had ended up adding fuel to the flames.
After that incident, Li Shuo changed the name of his company. He sought out two more partners, and started a new firm.
This matter would forever remain a warning for Li Shuo, as well as a scar within him. However, this scar had now been crudely yanked apart by Shao Qun.
He did not quite believe that Shao Qun had the evidence that could identify him as an accomplice on hand. Even if he had been informed by that boss, there was no proof to support his words. However, as long as if Shao Qun had enough clout, he could make a big issue out of this matter, and at the very least, it would be enough to give him no peace.
For Shao Qun to do this, was it just for Li Chengxiu…
Li Shuo looked at the large volume of files, recalling those nights he spent searching for the flaw. That conflict between desire to find it, but also the fear of finding it, gave Li Shuo sleepless nights. His eyes gradually lost their focus, and his thoughts were chaotic, feeling as though everything would break through his conscious mind and explode outwards.
As expected, any action that deviated from the right path would result in a corresponding trouble. Li Shuo had done something against his conscience, and in exchange, he went through many years of guilt. He did something against his principles, and now suffered a malicious revenge. Neither money nor fame could move him, but instead, his sympathy and his feelings were the ones dragging him down over and over again. The one thing he wished for in his life was to maintain his personal integrity without harming others, and so he had tried his best to treat everyone and everything rationally. Now, things had once again proved himself right. Only with enough rationality could one then avoid any danger, and thus benefit everyone.
Li Shuo did not regret anything he did for Li Chengxiu. Even if he were to put his feelings for him aside, Li Shuo was still morally obligated to help a friend. He might not have done a good job, but his actions were not wrong.
The only thing was that he needed to have better self-control, so that he would no longer be led around by his feelings.
After a sleepless night, Li Shuo again called many of his friends to understand the situation once it reached office hours back in China. Similar to what Xiang Ning said, the case had already been reported to the authorities, and people had been sent to the accounting firm to investigate. However, as there had yet to be a search warrant issued, the lawyers refused to hand in the information over, and both parties had been bickering over it the entire morning.
The current situation was that as long as Li Shuo returned to China, he would immediately be taken away to be investigated. Whether or not anything could be found, no one knew. However, if he did not return, there was no need for the authorities to come all the way to the states to arrest him over such a small financial case, and so he would be safe here.
As such, Li Shuo naturally could not return. He did not know how many traps Shao Qun had laid in preparation for him. If Shao Qun had enough power, so much so that he was able to convince that boss to turn against Li Shuo, then Li Shuo would truly be in great trouble.
Li Shuo asked his lawyer to continue following up with the case. At the same time, he found a private investigator to look into the legal representative of Benhui Properties — the nephew of the boss.
After that, Li Shuo spoke to Xiang Ning again over the phone, and Xiang Ning sighed countless times. “Can you tell me now what exactly is going on? Forget it, I’m not stupid either. The one who came to your office for a fight previously, that was Shao Qun, right?”
Li Shuo laughed wryly. “Yes, he’s most likely the culprit.”
“My dear friend, I’ve known you for so many years, why did you attract such trouble for a bout of affections?”
“Xiang-ge, this is not only a matter of affections. Shao Qun is a bully. Chengxiu has once worked in our firm before, and he’s a kind, diligent and honest person. How can I plead ignorance?”
“You… ai… So what are you going to do now? You’ll just remain in the states?”
Li Shuo lowered his tone, consoling him with a mellow and magnetic voice. “I’ll take the necessary, appropriate measures that the situation calls for. Anyone who does such wicked deeds will sooner or later have to pay the price.”
This was the price he was paying for that mistake he did at the spur of the moment.
Shao Qun, I’ll be waiting to see the price you pay.
After hanging up, Li Shuo counselled himself for a long time, but still felt somewhat unsettled. Thinking about it, he took his phone out and called Li Chengxiu.
The person answering deliberately lowered his voice. “Hello, Li-dage.”
“Chengxiu, you’re at work?” Li Shuo shut his eyes, thinking about how Li Chengxiu would look like currently. The more he imagined, the funnier it was, but he was unable to smile.
“Yes, please give me a moment.”
A while later, the background noises quietened down by a lot. Li Chengxiu spoke earnestly, “Li-dage, when would I be speaking to your mother? I’ve prepared myself already.”
Li Shuo laughed faintly. “So how did you prepare?”
Li Chengxiu was rather embarrassed. “I practiced speaking, and what I should say.”
In an instant, Li Shuo felt a warmth spreading through his heart. His response was very gentle. “There’s no hurry, the time difference hasn’t allowed us to do so.”
“Mn, alright.” Then, Li Chengxiu asked hesitantly, “Li-dage, you sound rather tired. Did you just wake up?”
“No, I…” Li Shuo closed his eyes, pinching the center of his brows. On his defined, handsome face, puffiness and exhaustion was evident. He wanted to say something, but was afraid of doing so, as he felt that Li Chengxiu would most likely refuse him.
“Li-dage, what’s going on?”
Li Shuo sighed lightly. “Chengxiu, I’m sorry… A situation has cropped up, and I won’t be able to go back for now.”
“I-is it your parents…”
“No, they’re fine. It’s an issue with my firm.”
Li Chengxiu asked, “Is it very serious?”
“Mn. This matter is very complicated, and I’ve been framed. Now, as long as I step into China, I will be investigated. Things are happening too quickly, and right now, I’m unable to conclude the depths of this matter. As such, I can’t take the risk of going back to China, understand?”
Li Chengxiu’s voice was very small. “… Is it… very serious?”
Li Shuo sounded very down. “I had originally not wanted to tell you about this, as I didn’t want you to worry. However, after thinking about your safety, I thought I should prepare you.”
“Shao Qun is most likely the instigator of this matter.”
Li Chengxiu sucked in a breath.
Despite the Pacific Ocean separating them, it was as though Li Shuo could feel how Li Chengxiu trembled when hearing this name, and this made his heart ache greatly. Moodily, Li Shuo continued, “This case that I’m currently linked with has been concluded for many years already, and it does not involve the interests of any third parties. The person framing me, not only are there no benefits out of it, they’re only seeking trouble out for themselves. Thinking about it over and over again, I can only conclude that it’s the work of another interest-driven party. For someone to target me like this, it’s most likely personal revenge.”
Li Shuo paused. “Speaking about personal revenge, I can only think of Shao Qun at the moment.”
A tearful tone could already be detected in Li Chengxiu’s voice. “Li-dage, is it really him?”
Li Shuo muttered, “It’s highly likely.”
“Then, you can’t come back?”
“For now, I’m afraid not. I can’t take the risk of going back. If I remain in the states, the worst thing that can happen is that I’ll never be able to enter China, but if I return… I don’t know what will happen.”
Even Li Chengxiu’s breaths were shuddered.
Li Shuo spoke hoarsely, “Chengxiu, I’m very worried about you right now. If Shao Qun is really behind this, the first step he did would be to prevent me from returning, and the second step he’d take will be to look for you. I’ve already asked my assistant to look for a new place for you, and you should be prepared as well.”
Li Chengxiu replied quietly, “Li-dage, I’m very sorry…”
“Chengxiu, there’s no need for you to apologise, this is not your fault. Since yesterday, I’ve been thinking about many things, like how my parents are getting older, about this incident… This may be fate showing me a path, and maybe I should remain in the states and further my career here for a period of time. Now, I have a question I’ll like to ask you, and the answer I get is what I really want to hear.”
“What is it?”
“Are you willing to come to the US?”
A silence descended on the other side of the conversation.
Li Shuo covered his eyes with a hand. Asking this question had used up a large amount of his courage. He was well aware that the two of them had yet to develop a very strong relationship, and towards him, Li Chengxiu had more gratitude than affection. “I know that this is a very big decision to make. Your life will be overturned, and you’ll need to leave the surroundings you’re familiar with. For anyone, this would be very difficult to do. However, as long as you’re willing, everything can be overcomed. The language barrier, the environment, friends, work, every single thing can be overcomed. I’m here, and you only need to be willing.”
“I… I don’t know.”
“I’ll ask my assistant to help you apply for the visa first. During this period of time, you can consider it carefully. Even if it’s right before the flight, you can pull back from this. However, I really hope that there will be one day where I’ll be able to hug you here in the states.”
So as not to let his parents notice anything strange, Li Shuo showered and shaved his face meticulously, making himself look impeccable.
When he had just returned to China, while going through the difficulties of setting up his own firm, Li Shuo had never once asked any money from his family, or complained about his stress. Now that his parents were at the age of enjoying their lives, there was no way he would make them worried for him.
Tidying himself up, he went downstairs.
The first thing Mr. Lu asked when he saw him was, “How was Jinxin when you went to see him yesterday?”
“He’s doing pretty well. The swelling should go down in a few days.” Li Shuo suddenly realised that he had yet to order a meal for Zhao Jinxin.
“Oh, that’s good then. I hope there won’t be any lasting effects.”
Li Shuo made a call to the restaurant closest to Zhao Jinxin’s place, requesting for lunch to be delivered to Zhao Jinxin’s place, and also instructed them to leave a note stating “take your medication accordingly”.
While eating, Mrs. Li asked her son when he would be returning to China.
“Oh, I’m in no hurry,” Li Shuo smiled. “Recently, there hasn’t been much going on in the firm. Now that I’m back here, I want to spend more time with you.”
“That’s great,” Mrs. Li was delighted. “Your Uncle Zhao has bought a holiday villa in Thousand Islands, and he’s been inviting us over for a holiday. This time, since you’re here, let’s go on a holiday together.”
Li Shuo’s smile stiffened. “Together, as in both families?”
“Yes, Jinxin usually doesn’t like going home. Now that his hand is injured, if they go on holiday together, it’ll be easier for them to take care of him.”
“Uh…” Not only was Li Shuo not in the mood for a holiday, he was even less interested in sharing a room with Zhao Jinxin.
“Your mother has already bought four new skirts,” Mr. Li winked at Li Shuo.
“… Is that so?” Li Shuo forced a smile out. “Then I have to prepare a camera as well, and capture how beautiful my mother looks.”
He could not think of any good excuses.
Mrs. Li laughed, “Right, haven’t you been saying that you want to let your boyfriend and me chat with each other?”
“We’ll forget it for now, he’s extremely shy. Next time, I’ll bring him along to the states as well, and you can have a good chat then.” A trace of loneliness flashed across Li Shuo’s eyes.
“Sure, alright then. Come, come try this sea cucumber.”
Just after Li Shuo had a few bites of his meal, his phone beeped a couple of times. Afraid that he would miss out on an important call or message, Li Shuo took a look at his phone. It was Zhao Jinxin.
“You’re using a restaurant to settle your accounts with me.” Accompanying the message was a crying emoji.
Li Shuo swiftly returned a text. “Have you taken your medicine?”
“I don’t want to eat the food nor the medicine, unless you come spend time with me.”
“I have something on today, I can’t make it.”
“It’s fine that you don’t come, just send me your nudes.”
Li Shuo placed his phone down onto the table, ignoring him.
The phone started beeping non-stop.
Li Shuo’s parents looked at him, uncomprehending.
Li Shuo was rather embarrassed. “My assistant is sending some documents over.” He hurriedly had a few more bites, then took his phone back to his room.
Looking at his phone, Zhao Jinxin had sent quite a number of texts.
“Just your butt is enough.”
“Alright, your chest?”
“Your waist or your thighs then, I can’t give in anymore.”
“Fine, your hands should be ok right?”
“Li-shushu, I really like your hands. Just take a photo and send it to me, and I promise that I’ll be very obedient for today, alright?”
Li Shuo could neither laugh nor cry. He had never seen anyone so shameless, so brazen before. He opened the camera app on his phone, taking a photo of his hand and sending it over.
“You’ve said it yourself, that you’ll be obedient today.”
Zhao Jinxin sent a smiling emoji in return, along with a sentence. “I will obediently fantasise about this hand holding onto my baby today.”
Li Shuo’s face burned. Taking a photo of his middle finger, he sent it over.
Zhao Jinxin was simply a demon leading one to temptation.
After some time, Li Shuo’s phone beeped again. From the corner of his eye, he saw that it was again a text from Zhao Jinxin. He hesitated for some time, but could not contain his curiosity and opened it.
“I know that you’ve met with some trouble in China, I’m willing to help you.”
Li Shuo froze, and his fingers quickly flew across the screen. “Don’t look into my matters again!!”
“It’s all because I like you.”
How significant was this “like”?
Did Shao Qun like Li Chengxiu? Probably, but what he gave to Li Chengxiu was only hurt.
Did Li Chengxiu like him? Probably, but how much of it was gratitude and reliance?
And Zhao Jinxin? A person like Zhao Jinxin, he probably said that word so frequently that it had become a habit. Other than it sounding nice, there was no use to it.
Li Shuo laughed wryly, and sent a severely worded message in return. “Don’t be a busybody.”