108. The Hidden Dragon
YiHan glanced at Qin An and back at JingYuan. Then, he smiled and interrupted Fang Yi before the man could say anymore, “It’s fine. He’s right. The more the merrier when it comes to barbeque. Or are you afraid you’d burn a hole through my wallet?”
Fang Yi chuckled in embarrassment as Qin An began poking the ground with the tip of a shoe.
“Officer Fang,” YiHan asked. “Since you like grilled skewers, you know where the best is. Why don’t you lead us?”
After a moment of serious consideration, the policeman said, “There’s a shop on West Hua Road that’s really nice and affordable, but it doesn’t have any private rooms.”
“Then, let’s go,” YiHan replied with a smile. “We’re eating barbeque, not private rooms.”
That response made Fang Yi burst out laughing. The awkwardness from before dissipated.
Qin An glanced at YiHan and chuckled, “I know the shop Lil Fang speaks of. I’ll lead the way. Get in my car, Lil Fang.”
“Then we’ll go get our car,” JingYuan said.
After the two men left, Qin An turned to Fang Yi and languidly asked, “Was that the third son of the Bai Family? He’s different to what the rumours say.”
“How very smart of you.” Yi could feel a headache coming on. “And how did you know he’s Little Master Bai?”
“How could you ask me that?” An smiled. “Everyone in the city knows of Mr Mu’s precious one, the Little Master Bai. The only one who could make the man worry would be him, right? Also, you called him Mr Bai. If I couldn’t make a guess from that, I’d be an idiot. Say, Mr Mu went off to get their car. Can’t Little Master Bai just wait here with us? Why must they go together? Did he think we’d gobble up his precious young man?”
“Haven’t you heard?” Yi sighed. “He was kidnapped a while ago. Little Master Bai nearly died. It’s natural for Mr Mu to be on his guard. Ever since the kidnapping, he’d never left the young man’s side. He even brings Little Master Bai along with him to the office. He’s just terrified the man would disappear once more. He’s not particularly on alert just because of us.”
“Never left his side? Mu JingYuan really is a fool when in love,” An mused, a hand tapping at his chin. “Huh? How did you know they’ve never left each other’s sides?”
Yi pushed the arm An had around his shoulders since the start of their meeting and said, “I’m in charge of Little Master Bai’s case. Of course I’d know a little of their private lives. Also, don’t go spouting nonsense. Fool when in love? The Mu and Bai families have always been close and Mr Mu doesn’t have any direct living relatives. It’s not strange for him to treat the younger man as a brother.”
An twisted and turned, hoping to keep lounging against Yi. “Oh, pure Little Fang. If Mr Mu really just thought of him as a younger brother, then what about the actual big brother? He never said anything about sticking to his younger brother’s side at all times. What does Mr Mu have to worry about? There was obviously something going on with the way they stood together. Look at the little glances they keep throwing at each other. Pew, pew, pew. If you hadn’t bumped into me today, you’d be the third-wheeling lightbulb for the rest of the night.”
“For real?” Yi gaped. “Don’t joke around.”
An finally succeeded in remaining lounged against the policeman with his arm around the other man’s shoulders. “Of course it’s true,” he said, satisfied with his achievement. “Let me tell you. My eyes are as sharp as an eagle’s and as bright as fresh snow. Also, I’d lie to anyone and everyone but you. You are…”
Yi look at An suspiciously when the young man just drifted off into silence. “But what?” Yi asked.
An cleared his throat and stood up straight. “But you’re my saviour,” he said. “Erm, they’re here. Let’s get in the car.”
Once they were in the car, Yi continued shooting suspicious looks at An.
“What are you looking at?” An cheerfully asked as he drove. “Did you just realise how handsome I am? It’s fine to for you to look longer. I won’t charge you.”
Speechless, Yi turned and stared out the window.
An glanced at him and said, “Hey, speaking of which, whose idea was it to eat barbeque? Why all of a sudden?”
“What?” Yi curiously asked. “Mr Bai asked me what I like to eat so I just said I like grilled skewers.”
“I just knew it was you,” An said, mirth laced through his voice. “But really, you. What were you thinking? You actually made the youngest son of the Bai family go eat barbeque with you. But it’s such a shock that he said yes.”
“What’s so weird about that?” Yi asked in confusion. “He’s human. He has to eat too, right?”
“Oh, you,” An chuckled. “You’re such a simple man. Think. What kind of person is Little Master Bai? A single piece of beef steak in a place he chooses would be worth your entire month’s salary. It might not even be enough to pay for it. He’s definitely someone who nit-picks a lot and only eats exquisitely cooked food. Mr Mu, I won’t say too much about him. What family does he come from? He’d probably never had barbeque before. You’re asking them to go have grilled skewers with you and it’s a shop that doesn’t even have private rooms. It’d be so noisy and their outfits would stink of smoke and meat later. It’s such a great honour they’d be willing to go with you. But then again, this Little Master Bai is quite interesting. He’s completely different to what the rumours say.”
Yi pondered hard at that. Guilt started rising in him. “What do we do then?” he uneasily asked. “Why don’t we go somewhere else later?”
Yi’s used of “we” made An feel very satisfied. “No need to do that. They agreed to follow you. That’s something they’re doing because of you. If you change your mind at the last minute, it’d be awkward. Just leave it. They don’t mind so who are we to be worried on their behalf?”
That made sense to Yi. “Little Master Bai is a very nice young man.” Yi had to admit it. “He doesn’t act high and mighty at all. He even told me not to think of him as a son of the Bai family but as a normal friend. I really don’t understand why anyone would say such rotten things about someone so kind. They go on about how he’s arrogant and self-centred. I think they’re just jealous. They’re jealous of how he’s got a great family and a great personality. It’s probably because he wasn’t petty enough to argue with them over it and would ignore them. That’s why the rumours are so ridiculously far from the truth.”
An dotingly glanced at the furious Yi. “What you say makes sense,” he agreed. “How can an ordinary person really get to know Little Master Bai? They’re just lying. It’s fine that we know. He doesn’t even mind. Don’t get so angry over it.”
“You’re right,” Yi muttered after shooting the man driving a quick glare. “But that’s because Mr Bai is generous. He thinks of me as a friend. Of course I’d be angry on his behalf.”
“Okay, okay,” An chuckled. “I know you’re someone who have a strong sense of loyalty and justice. However, he wants to be your friend. You don’t need to be so formal with him. Only then can you two naturally get to know each other. Once social statuses are put aside, humans are all the same. We all have two legs, a stomach, and a head to top it all off. Everyone needs to eat, sleep and poop. Even an emperor’s crap stinks.”
“As if I need you to teach me how to make friends,” Yi barked out. “Anyway, we’re going to have dinner. Can you not talk about something so disgusting?”
“Oh, Lil Fang,” An guffawed, a hand reaching up to ruffle Yi’s hair. “Why are you so cute?”
“Go away!” Yi shouted. “You’re the one who’s cute! You’ll forever only be cute!”
“Shoot! How mean.” An cried in surprise.
Yi harrumphed and huffed. His face said all, “I’m just that mean.”
In the other car, YiHan was sitting on the passenger seat while JingYuan drove.
“Is there something wrong with that Qin An?” YiHan asked.
“Not bad.” JingYuan smiled and glanced at his lover. “You could tell something was up with him. As expected of my HanHan.”
“I’m asking you a proper question,” YiHan replied, shifting in his seat. “Just what’s weird about him?”
“Hm, you tell me first,” JingYuan hummed. This was a good chance to train up YiHan’s mind. “How did you realise something was off about him?”
“I didn’t actually,” YiHan said, scratching at his cheek. “I saw your expression. Your guard raised up when you saw him. There aren’t many people in this city who could get you to make that face and I know all of those people. This Qin An, however, I’ve never seen him before.”
“I see.” JingYuan couldn’t hold back from chuckling. “Alright. You’ve grown up. You should know about the underground world now. To outsiders, there are only five great families in this city. Unbeknownst to them, there’s a faction that can go head-on with all five families at the same time. That Qin An is the head of that faction.”
“What faction?” YiHan was surprised. “Why didn’t I know?”
“You were still young,” JingYuan said. “We just didn’t let you know. In this world, where there’s light, there’s dark. If white exists, black does too. If we five families exist in the light, then the Hidden Dragon Qin An leads is in the dark.”
“A triad gang?” YiHan exclaimed in realisation. “They’re called the Hidden Dragon?”
“You could say that,” JingYuan replied. “They’re the city’s greatest power in the dark. Qin An is the king of the underground kingdom. His name isn’t actually Qin An. It’s Qin Feng, as in the character used for the sharpness of a blade. He’s the bastard son of the last leader of the Hidden Dragon, Qin HaiTian. Three years ago, Qin Feng killed his father and ascended the dragon’s throne.”
“He’s that cruel?” YiHan was truly shocked. “He’s so dangerous. Wouldn’t Fang Yi be at a disadvantage? Why is he bothering Fang Yi?”
The sight of YiHan being so concerned for Fang Yi made JingYuan’s belly fill up with acrid sour jealousy. “He might be a man who can be cruel but he’s not a bloodthirsty man. The Hidden Dragon controls the entire underground in this city. It’s hard for them to avoid selling weapons illegally or other shady businesses but they never involve themselves in drugs and they would never force anyone innocent to be a prostitute. The hostesses and hosts in their clubs all do so willingly. Furthermore, he had no choice but to kill his father.
“His mother was just an ordinary university student. Qin HaiTian took a liking to her. When sweet talk and lying couldn’t get her to fall for him, he just took what he wanted. Her family had no power or connections and they didn’t dare say no. So they gave her to Qin HaiTian. When his mother gave birth to him, she was traumatised and hurt herself. From then on, she’d be sickly and fall ill. Combined with the harsh life of struggling to survive every day, the pressure built up quickly. She grew old quick wasn’t as beautiful as she was before giving birth to Qin Feng. By then, Qin HaiTian was sick of her. He only kept her by his side because she gave him a son.
“Qin HaiTian is a greedy and lustful man. As long as it’d make him money, he’d do anything. He’s also a brutal man. Perhaps it was karma. He’d done too many bad deeds. He never had another child. The only option he was to raise Qin Feng as his heir. Ever since he was a young child, Qin Feng had to go through his ‘training’. Qin HaiTian’s ‘training’ is no mere training. He would lock the small boy up with starving wolves and dogs. Compared to that man, Feng DeCheng can be considered the kindest father of all. Qin Feng’s mother had always been against putting her son through such savage training and she refused to let her son take over his bastard of a father’s job. She didn’t want a life of blood and darkness for him. But her words held no power. No one would listen to her. When Qin Feng was sixteen years old, she organised an escape attempt for him. In a fit of rage, Qin HaiTian strangled her to death.”
Barbeque, not private rooms: There’s another pun in here where the term for private rooms has the character for bao and bread (包).