211. Are You Even Human?
“Father,” said Yan Hui, “how do we handle this?”
Yan Cheng paced about the room. With gritted teeth, he then stared up at the ceiling. “That club,” he eventually said, “is it still in operation?”
“I followed the leads mentioned in the flash drive,” replied Hui. “My investigations revealed the club encountering difficulty after difficulty when trying to acquire ‘stock’ just before the new year celebrations. They thought it was just a coincidence at first but when the number of problems rose to the point of cutting off their ‘supply routes’, they laid down low, thinking it was because someone had taken notice of them. They have yet to venture out for more ‘supplies’ since. They are currently dormant.”
“Before the new year celebrations?” asked Cheng.
“Yes,” Hui said with a nod. “It was not long after Yan’s engagement party. I suspect JingYuan had been interfering with their operations to save the potential victims.”
“You’re not wrong,” said Cheng. “At that time, there could’ve been no possible culprit but him. It must’ve been because Miao insulted YiHan at the party. JingYuan was so furious that he wanted to teach Miao a lesson. One of the man’s habits is to thoroughly investigate his target before he makes a move. When he found out about this, he didn’t publicise the knowledge. For the sake of the Yan family’s face, he kept it a secret. However, now that he knew about it, he wouldn’t turn a blind eye to it. That’s why he secretly saved those people. I just wonder what he initially planned to use this for. But now that I think of it, if he acted on this, your au-no, Miao, would be in prison for sure.”
“Then,” said Hui, “we…”
“Keep this hidden for now,” said Cheng. “I’ll question her today behind closed doors. My greatest hope is that she doesn’t know anything about this. She was only tricked into this. If that’s the case, I will never forgive the one who tricked her!”
“What if she wasn’t tricked?” Hui tentatively asked.
“I don’t know either!” Cheng blurted in exasperation. “That’s my little sister! She’s so much younger than I am! I loved her like a daughter. Even if her actions and personality have disappointed me to the core, I can’t bear to see her in jail. But why must she do this?”
“Father, she has changed while you were ignorant to it. Perhaps she was lured into it. Perhaps she’s only revealing her true personality. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that the aloof and self-centred little sister you speak of is not the same person as the woman she is now,” Hui said. He pointed to the flash drive and continued, “This is no longer something that can be explained away as being cold. This is a question of morality. It involves the very basic rules of ethics. The more power she has, the more she is capable of doing. You… Please think carefully about it.”
Cheng slumped into a chair, defeated. His voice was hoarse as he said, “You’re right but we can’t exclude the possibility that she was tricked. Don’t tell your grandfather about this just yet. His body might not be able to handle the knowledge. Wait until I’ve talked to her.”
However, Cheng’s hopes that his sister was tricked into the act would be dashed. When he arrived home, he called Miao into his study. Behind closed doors, he questioned her on her involvement. She denied it at first but when Cheng was able to list out the club’s internal organisational structure, their method of operation and even the exact number of shares she held, Miao knew she couldn’t hide it any longer. She came clean. No one tricked her. She herself joined the group. Cheng was so enraged that his hackles were raised and he nearly lost control of how loudly he was speaking. Miao, on the other hand, thought he was overreacting.
“The ‘stock’ comes from different countries and regions,” said Miao. “The search teams are scattered and their methods of transportation are very well hidden and organised. It would be hard for any problems to occur. Even if something did happen, with who I am, I can just push out a scapegoat to take the blame. In this world, the bold feast while the cowardly starve. What are you afraid of? You’re so timid. It must be hard for you to support the entire Yan family.”
“Is this a question of courage?” Cheng almost laughed from rage. “Yan Miao, do you not know the nature of the ‘stock’ you speak of? It’s humans! They are humans just like you and me! Tell me, just where is the line for you? Is this what Father taught you? Were you lacking in funds or something?”
“Are you even my brother?” Miao angrily barked. “How can those lowly peasants be compared to me?”
“Lowly peasants?” Cheng spat through gritted teeth. He smacked the table hard enough to have nearly shattered it. “Tell me, what is your standard for differentiating you and those ‘lowly peasants’? Is it status? How are you any different from them other than social ranking? Who do you think you are? God? An emperor? Someone who has the right to dictate whether other people live or die? Who gave me the power? Who gave you the right? Who taught you all these? Have you gone mad for money? Putting aside the fact that gold to you is like dirt, even if you were a beggar, you cannot do something so rotten, so wicked! Aren’t you afraid of karma?”
Miao was furious now. “I’ve only let you have your way over and over again because you are my brother. How could you speak of me so maliciously? I’m not fully participating in this anyway. I’ve never participated in the organisation’s activities. I’ve never gone out to capture people. I don’t even care what they usually do. This is only one of my many investments. It’s like investing in film production. I invest, they work and I gain dividends. What’s so bad about that? Also, why place yourself on a pedestal? Do you think underground dealings like this don’t exist everywhere? If you want to be the hero to save the citizens from disaster, why don’t you become Superman?”
Cheng couldn’t believe his ears. “Do you think this is just an ‘ordinary’ investment? Do you think it’s the same as investing in a movie? I see. Yan Miao, I have never truly known you as a person. How did our family nurture a person like you? Your heart is black through and through, do you know that? You speak so lightly of human lives. Are you even human? Do you think your hands are clean just because you didn’t capture these people yourself? Do you not provide the organisation protection? Does He Yuan know about this? Did he entice you to do it?”
“Don’t mention that scum!” Miao shrieked.
There was no pain left on Cheng’s face. All that’s left was a cold calm. “To think you’re still calling him scum,” he coldly scoffed. “At most, he was disloyal in love and in marriage. He might not be as upstanding but you are so much worse than him. Answer me this. Does he know about this? Is he involved in it?”
Miao knew from the look on her brother’s face that Cheng was beyond himself with anger. She had only just returned to this home. She still needed to depend on her big brother. She didn’t dare thoroughly offend the man.
“He doesn’t know,” she harrumphed, saying the only thing she could at this moment. “I didn’t know his true personality back then. Naturally, I did this behind his back to avoid ruining my image in his eyes.”
“At least you know that it’s not good,” said Cheng. “I thought you’d be discussing it like discussing the sale of pork from a butchery you had just started.”
The more serene Cheng appeared, the more anxious Miao felt. She knew that her big brother was slowly turning into someone she couldn’t depend on yet she could only remain adamant and insist, “Many of those in there were captured from isolated mountain regions. They just need to go through a little hardship and they can earn big bucks. The more outstanding of them would even find important masters who’d give them gold and silver. Isn’t it much better than rolling around in the mud up in the mountains?”
“Ha,” Cheng burst out laughing. “So you think that you’re saving them too? What a way to earn money and enjoy luxuries. Why don’t you do it as well?”
“I’ve told you to not compare them to me!” Miao barked.
“Can’t I?” Cheng’s eyes coldly bore into hers. “How are you any different? True. Your heart is blacker than theirs. Why don’t you ask them if they enjoy earning gold and silver through that method? Why don’t you ask them if they wanted to do it?”
“How could people like them have the right to choose?” said Miao.
“Yan Miao, I don’t think I can get through to you at all,” Cheng calmly said. “You don’t even know what it means to be humane or what ethics are. Everyone says there are no honest men in business. When you’re in the business industry, it’s fine to be dishonest and shrewd. However, it’s one thing to be dishonest and another to be evil. You speak of human trafficking as if you’re talking about selling vegetables. That only means your heart is pure black. There’s no hope for you. People like you can never hold any power or you’ll bring harm to others!”
When Miao saw that her brother was about to leave the room, she hurriedly rushed forward to grab him by the arm. “Brother, what are you going to do? Do you want to expose your own little sister? Do you want me to go to jail? How can you be so cruel?”
“Am I as cruel as you, Miao-Miao?” Cheng helplessly sighed. “Have you ever once thought about Father, about me, about your second brother? Have you never thought about how knowledge of this would kill Father? Do you not know that your second brother is a civil servant? Don’t you know how badly he’d be affected if word of this matter gets out?”
“Since you know that, can’t you just not tell them?” asked Miao. “I promise you. I’ll withdraw from the organisation immediately. Okay?”
Cheng was in no mood to keep talking to her. He pulled his arm out of his grasp, strode to the exit and opened the door.
Just as the door opened, Cheng saw the old Mr Yan standing right outside, his face pale with anger!
The old Mr Yan had just left his room when he happened to witness Miao enter Cheng’s study. He waited in the hallway for a few minutes but the two never came out. Thinking to ask if something was wrong, the old Mr Yan walked over to the study’s door. Kong Wen, upon spotting the old Mr Yan’s movements, followed him along to support the elderly man. They had just reached the door when they heard Miao shriek from within the room. The old Mr Yan didn’t knock nor did he allow Wen to speak. Instead, he stood there at the door, listening. Wen watched as the elderly man’s face turned into all shades of the rainbow. She was panicking with anxiety but the old Mr Yan’s stern eyes kept her from saying a word. Frankly, the duo outside couldn’t clearly hear what was being said inside the room. They were only able to listen to a few lines spoken in raised voices. The majority of those lines were spoken by Miao but that was enough to piece together what was going on. Wen was stunned. When she saw Cheng opening the door, she glared at her husband before worriedly looking at the old Mr Yan. She was at a loss on what to do.
Cheng was also shocked senseless by the old Mr Yan’s presence. “Father,” he said, panicking, “why are you here? You…”
“Ah Cheng, your sister wasn’t like this when she was younger. She’s not my daughter.” That was all the old Mr Yan could say before he collapsed.
Wen dashed to support the old Mr Yan from behind and was squashed under the elderly man’s body. Cheng hurried forward to grab his father but he didn’t act fast enough. His heart pounded with fear as he watched his father collapse to the floor.
“Father!” he screamed.
“Hurry up and call the ambulance!” Wen shouted from where she laid, stuck under the old Mr Yan.