Love Breeds Hate

The atmosphere in the conference room changed the instant Lian Jun said “Pegasus.” Everyone’s gazes shifted away from the windows and to Zuo Yang, their expressions suspicious and uneasy.

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This reaction was to be expected—Pegasus had garnered much infamy in the past few years.

Pegasus was a medium-sized legal criminal organization.
It was rather old and used to keep a low profile.
However, four or five years ago, its modus operandi suddenly changed—it began to swallow smaller organizations, secretly undermine the organizations of the same rank, poach people like crazy, hide moles in any organization it could… In short, its actions were contemptible and dirty.

Like a bedbug, it made stink everywhere and buried its feces in your house.

When facing a weaker opponent, it trampled him madly; opponents with similar strength, it only harassed and made trouble; to stronger forces, it wouldn’t openly provoke, but would secretly poach people, trying to weaken them.
A double-cross here, stabbing someone in the back there, a bit of sucking up yet somewhere else—Pegasus was extremely annoying and made people itch to get rid of it.

The problem was, it was impossible to get rid of.
The stronger organizations had targeted Pegasus several times, both openly and covertly, but none succeeded.
It was like a cockroach: nearly unkillable, disgusting people by merely existing, and whenever it appeared, you couldn’t have a peace of mind.

This year, Pegasus’ leader didn’t come, and it made everyone delighted because a legitimate organization wouldn’t attend the conference in only two cases—either it was destroyed or had lost its legal status.
The other leaders were happy with whichever.

As a matter of fact, since the middle of last year, there was practically no news about Pegasus.
Smarter people guessed one of the large organizations finally got fed up and cleaned it up in secret.

Just now, Lian Jun directly stated that Nine Eagles and Pegasus were connected, and everyone’s minds instantly turned frantic with speculation.

Lian Jun’s words seemed to imply it was him who dealt with Pegasus, and that he discovered there was a relation between them and Nine Eagles.
In fact, everyone had long suspected Pegasus dared to act so unscrupulously because it had support from one of the large organizations.
Once they followed this line of thought, they noticed that Pegasus’ sudden change in behavior happened the same year Nine Eagles began to develop rapidly…

Zuo Yang, who’d suddenly become the center of attention, barely resisted the urge to jump to his feet and loudly curse Lian Jun.

Unlike the others, he knew what happened to Pegasus.
It proved to be a very useful pawn, and last year, he sent it to Y Province to get rid of Lian Jun; he lost contact with its members soon after.
Supposedly, they were all caught and sent to prison.

At first, he was worried Lian Jun would manage to pry open Pegasus’ leader’s mouth and find it was him who was the mastermind behind them.
He’d waited for Annihilation’s follow-up actions, probing cautiously, but in the end, there were none.
As such, he thought Pegasus’ leader had complied with their agreement and kept Nine Eagles’ involvement a secret, and that Lian Jun failed to associate Gua Four turning traitor with them.

He’d never expected that it wasn’t that Lian Jun hadn’t known, but that the damn man knew too much, and actually held back on acting on that knowledge for almost a year.
He’d only brought this matter to light now, after Zuo Yang had long put it behind, choosing the perfect moment to let Nine Eagles draw everyone’s hatred!

Insidious! Devious! Despicable! Shameless! Calculating, manipulative bastard!

Zuo Yang’s smugness at getting one over on Lian Jun disappeared in a flash.
His face twitched, and he squeezed out a casual smile.
Just like Lian Jun, he didn’t answer the question: “I just asked casually, but your reaction was so big, you even made some random accusations.
It makes me believe your new subordinate is quite special.”

“Of course he’s special, each of my subordinates is special.” Lian Jun put down the information in his hand, still expressionless.
“I have to say, if this is your attempt at prying, I doubt anyone even tells you what time is it.
Pegasus was wiped out by me.
I don’t believe you don’t know this and yet, you still dare to provoke me.
I really think you lack brains.
If you’re not afraid I will expose all your other hidden lackeys, feel free to continue annoying me.
I don’t mind letting everyone know more of Nine Eagles’ secrets.
Don’t forget—if you can put moles in my organization, I can put them in yours too.”

Zuo Yang’s expression changed at last, but he still pretended Pegasus was never one of his pawns, and drawled, “Lian Jun, I see your skill of twisting the truth is as good as ever.”

“Twisting the truth? Everyone can judge for themselves.” Lian Jun picked up the information again, looking fed up and unwilling to speak with Nine Eagles’ leader any longer.
“Zuo Yang, you can dream of being emperor of the underworld, but no one here is a fool.”

Emperor of the underworld?

Zhang Zhuoyuan glanced sideways at Zuo Yang and said, “Zuo Yang, accompany me after the meeting.
We may need to talk.”

Zuo Yang’s face looked as if he was forced to eat feces.
The fake smile finally disappeared from his face, and he stopped talking.

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Lu Shan grinned wide at Zuo Yang’s humiliation.
Slowly swirling a pen in one hand, she said, “What century is this? There are still grown men who fantasize about being the emperor of the underworld.
Lian Jun, dear, I suddenly feel I don’t hate you that much.”

“If the price of not being hated by you is to be called ‘dear,’ then no thanks, please continue to hate me,” Lian Jun replied coldly, firmly maintaining the pretense of his hostile relationship with Tarantula’s leader.

Lu Shan’s expression stiffened, and she gave him a look full of dissatisfaction.
She let the pen drop and sneered: “Unappreciative bastard.” Then she also stopped talking.

This marked the end of the skirmish between the leaders of top echelon organizations.
The silence was restored, but the atmosphere in the conference room was quite different from before.

Earlier, everyone ostracized Lian Jun, intentionally or not.
However, after Lian Jun dropped the bomb about Nine Eagles being the mastermind behind Pegasus, it was Zuo Yang who got that treatment.

The underworld leaders didn’t like Lian Jun because of his close relationship with the authorities, but at least he didn’t secretly cultivate pawns to undermine other organizations.
Zuo Yang was ambitious and unscrupulous; today’s revelations confirmed he’d stop at nothing to gain more power.
He was almost like a rabid dog.

The powerful but low-profile man who never suppressed other organizations without reason, or the ambitious man who wanted to become the emperor of the underworld—did anyone even have to wonder which was more of a danger?

The meeting didn’t break up until just before dinner.
When the leaders came out, their expressions weren’t pretty, and among them, Zuo Yang’s face stood out as exceptionally ugly—as soon as the meeting ended, Zhang Zhuoyuan and Liu Zhenjun “invited” him over.

Shi Jin, as usual, shouldered Gua One aside and usurped the handles of Lian Jun’s wheelchair.
“I saw Zuo Yang talking to you.
Did he make trouble?” He asked with concern.

“He didn’t, he was just his usual brainless self,” Lian Jun replied casually, glossing over the brief confrontation.
He waited until Shi Jin pushed him to the second upper level, where there were fewer people around then continued, “But he does have something.
He dared to provoke me openly, not caring whether I held information I can use against him—he can’t have no ace up his sleeve.”

Shi Jin frowned.
“So Long Shi really is in his hands?”

What’s more, he should be on Nine Eagles’ ship,” Lian Jun said.
“Zuo Yang was overwhelmed by me today.
He certainly won’t be able to endure and will try to settle the score sooner or later.
We simply need to wait.”

Shi Jin took a look at Lian Jun’s progress bar, which stayed at 900 and refused to budge, and nodded.

Lian Jun’s speculation turned out to be correct.
After dinner, Zuo Yang sent a subordinate to invite Lian Jun to visit Nine Eagles’ ship and sent an invitation card with the word “Long” inside.

Lian Jun threw the card into the trash in front of Zuo Yang’s subordinate and said, “Tell Zuo Yang I’m not as foolish as him.” Then he let Gua One throw the man out.

Shi Jin looked at the trash can, a bit uneasy.

Lian Jun thought the teenager didn’t understand why he didn’t accept the invitation, and explained, “We can’t let ourselves follow Zuo Yang’s pace.
Don’t worry, something like this won’t be enough to deter him.”

Shi Jin shook his head.
He took Lian Jun’s hand, pulling it closer to his eyes.
Suddenly, he frowned, then circled the wheelchair to grab the handles and pushed it to the bathroom.
Once there, he picked up the soap and began to frantically wash Lian Jun’s hands.

Lian Jun wasn’t stupid—he immediately realized what was going on.
“Is there a problem with the card?”

“I’m not sure, but you’d better not touch anything sent by Zuo Yang in the future.
Who knows if there’s anything on it?” Shi Jin answered, his eyes glued to Lian Jun’s progress bar, which had suddenly risen a few points after he touched the card.
He kept washing Lian Jun’s hands until he saw the bar drop, then turned off the tap and reached for the towel.

Lian Jun let Shi Jin help him wipe his hands then called Gua Two.
He asked him to seal the card in a plastic bag and send it to Annihilation’s ship so Uncle Long could have a look.

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Gua Two’s face darkened.
He cursed Zuo Yang for being an underhanded scumbag, found a bag and a pair of tweezers, and carefully collected the card.
He also took the trash can away to get rid of it—better safe than sorry.

Gua One was equally upset.
He said, angry and remorseful, “It was my negligence.
I saw the man hold it with bare hands and didn’t scrutinize it.”

“It’s not your fault.” Lian Jun moved his fingers, savoring the intimacy of Shi Jin holding and washing them so carefully.
“Who could’ve thought Zuo Yang would be stupid enough to try to harm me while I’m on the government ship? Looks like he has no respect for the officials.
Besides, there isn’t necessarily something wrong with the card, this is all just in case.”

Though he said that, he still ordered every person who had been anywhere near the card to carefully wash their hands and faces, and Shi Jin was no exception.

In the bathroom, Shi Jin nudged Xiao Si in his mind: “Can you help me locate Long Shi? I’d like to confirm if he really is on Nine Eagles’ ship.”

Xiao Si said, somewhat sheepish,

Shi Jin frowned.
He thought for a moment, then said, “Okay, I’ll try to do something about the medium.
Can you at least scan the inside of Nine Eagles’ ship? Like the distribution of people and so on.”

Xiao Si replied brightly, glad it was able to help.

Happy, Shi Jin praised the system generously, then began to ponder where could he get something belonging to Long Shi.

Finally, he chose to start with Gua Two.

He took the game of Monopoly and snuck off to Gua Two’s cabin, pretending he really, really wanted to play with him.
Then, he brought the conversation to the topic of Long Shi—surreptitiously, he thought.

Gua Two picked up his token with disgust.
At Shi Jin’s question, he looked at him and answered directly: “It’s not that we intentionally let Long Shi go that year, he was just too cunning.
After betraying Jun-shao, he burned all his research and belongings and disappeared like a ghost, leaving absolutely no traces of himself behind.
At the time, everyone was busy trying to save Jun-shao’s life.
He managed to run away, taking advantage of the chaos.
We’ve never actually given up on searching for him, but we haven’t found any clues—Long Shi is too familiar with Annihilation’s means and the way it operates, so he was able to easily evade our pursuit.”

Shi Jin didn’t give up hope, “He really didn’t leave anything behind?”

“Really—he even found the adoption certificate Unce Long kept and burned it, the heartless, ungrateful son of a bitch.
In fact, I want to thank Nine Eagles for catching him—that fucking traitor should’ve been killed long ago,” Gua Two spit out.
In the end, he couldn’t force himself to play such a childish game, and pushed the board towards Shi Jin, waving him away.
“It’s too late to play games, I want to sleep.”

Shi Jin protested that the hour wasn’t late at all but gathered the game and stood up.

Gua Two called him back before he opened the door, warning, “Don’t ask Uncle Long about this—he may look stern, but in fact, he’s the most soft-hearted out of us all.
Long Shi’s betrayal was a knife in his heart.
Every time he hears somebody mention Long Shi, he’ll be depressed for a long time.
We’ll get Long Shi back, and Jun-shao’s body will get better, so calm down and stop worrying.”

Shi Jin paused and looked back at him.
He took a lollipop out of his pocket, threw it in his direction, opened the door, and left.

Once in the passage, he found Lian Jun was waiting outside the door of his cabin.
He blinked, stunned, then hurried over.
“Why aren’t you resting yet, Jun-shao? Did you need me for something?”

Lian Jun glanced at the game of Monopoly he held, then at the door to Gua Two’s cabin.
“No, it’s nothing important.
You were with Gua Two?”

I wanted to play with him, but he wanted to sleep and threw me out.”

“Why didn’t you just find me for that?”

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“Uh…” Shi Jin was stumped for a moment.
He thought frantically to find a reasonable excuse.
“A round of Monopoly is rather long, I was afraid I’d keep you up too late.”

Lian Jun gave him a deep look then reached for the game box and set it on his lap.
He turned the wheelchair around, saying, “My body isn’t this useless—I can sleep late from time to time.
Come on, I’ll play with you.”

Shi Jin glanced at his empty hand and Lian Jun’s back that seemed to say he wasn’t allowed to refuse.
He found that apparently, he dug a hole for himself, so he sighed resignedly and followed Lian Jun.

After they began, Shi Jin, who was intending to play casually, found that tonight’s game was strangely slow—not exciting at all and almost hypnotic.
Halfway through, he yawned, and his head began to droop.

“Sleepy?” Lian Jun asked in a low voice, putting down the dice.

Shi Jin rubbed his face hard and said, “I’m fine.
Let’s finish the game.”

“No.” Lian Jun swept the buildings and tokens off the board, directly disrupting the game, then moved his wheelchair to Shi Jin’s side.
He stroked the teenager’s hair.
“Shi Jin, is life on this ship boring?”

The hand touching his hair felt particularly comfortable, and Shi Jin lazily leaned back on the sofa chair.
Seeing that the game board was completely messed up, the remaining tension drained out of him.
He yawned again then shook his head to wake himself up.
“No, it’s actually pretty interesting.
I learned many things I didn’t know.”

Lian Jun didn’t speak, only helped him wipe the corners of his eyes, teary from yawning.

This made Shi Jin itchy, and he turned his head, avoiding his hand.
Perhaps affected by the warm atmosphere of the moment, or maybe sleepy enough that the worry overcame his self-control, he suddenly grabbed the other man’s hand and said, “I want to save you, Lian Jun.
I want to catch Long Shi and get the poison formula from him and make you healthy again.”

“I know.” Lian Jun didn’t free his hand but tightened his grip on Shi Jin’s hand instead.
He looked at the young man’s face and repeated, “I know… I deeply treasure your feelings.”

Shi Jin became a bit flustered, though he had no idea why.
“Do you have a plan for getting Long Shi back?” He asked.

Lian Jun moved closer to him.
Nine Eagles could grow to this point only because of my and government’s tacit permission and support, and I have my people inside.
However, Zuo Yang must’ve been exceptionally cautious about Long Shi’s matter, since they never found a clue.”

“He’s a valuable chip, after all,” Shi Jin said.
He looked at Lian Jun’s face, his gaze settling on the other man’s luminous eyes.
Half-consciously, he thought they seemed to contain some kind of magic power—just looking into them was enough to make him feel at ease.
He continued, “Today, you didn’t give Zuo Yang the response he wanted, who knows what he’ll do next…”

“Most probably, he’ll either leak some information or give me some kind of evidence to convince me Long Shi really is in his hands.
Then, when I’m thrown out of balance, he’ll start to make demands,” Lian Jun replied.
He looked at Shi Jin, who gazed at him as if spellbound, and his pupils dilated.
He entwined his fingers with Shi Jin’s and asked, his voice softening to a whisper, “Shi Jin, you’re watching me like this… Do you like looking at me?”

Shi Jin didn’t answer.
Abruptly, his body slid to the side, his eyes closing—he fell asleep.

Lian Jun: “……”

Xiao Si:

Shi Jin slept the night away and woke in his own bed to sunshine illuminating the cabin.
He couldn’t help but sigh with contentment.
“Oh wow, I slept so well, and I seem to have had a wonderful dream.
In this dream, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen entwined her hand with mine and looked at me tenderly.
Then, she even covered me with a quilt—it was so considerate of her.”

Xiao Si’s voice was robotic and monotone.

Shi Jin got out of bed.
He opened his mouth, about to say yes, but stopped and asked instead, “Will I get a fever like last time?” He couldn’t get sick at such a critical time.

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The system was silent for a while then replied,

“Come on then.” Satisfied, Shi Jin climbed back into bed and closed his eyes.

Ten minutes later, he staggered into the bathroom, the world spinning.
He washed his face with cold water, which helped a little, then supported himself against the wall and uttered weakly, “This isn’t ‘just a little dizzy,’ you know…”

Xiao Si’s voice was still robotic.

Shi Jin finally noticed something was not right and asked, puzzled, “What’s wrong with you? You’re acting a bit weird.”

For a moment, the system was quiet.
Then, without warning, it burst into tears, and its crying was exceptionally heartbreaking.

Shi Jin was both shocked and worried.
“Xiao Si?”

Xiao Si began to hiccup.
Its misery was obvious, but it still said determinedly,

Shi Jin: “……”

At breakfast, Shi Jin found that Lian Jun’s appetite didn’t seem good and he ate much less than usual.
It worried him.

Lian Jun claimed it was nothing, that the food on the ship was monotonous, and he was a bit tired of it.

Shi Jin didn’t say anything, just looked at the ten-pages-long menu, feeling that Lian Jun’s old problem of being a picky eater seemed to rear its head again.

The morning meeting began at 9 a.m., one hour earlier than yesterday.

Today’s meetings would focus on illegal criminal organizations.
They would have no direct impact on the participants, so the underworld bosses were much more relaxed than yesterday.

Zuo Yang swaggered to the government ship exactly the same as the previous day.
However, this time, he didn’t try to provoke Lian Jun.
He just took a look at Shi Jin, who stood in his usual position some distance away, and entered the conference room, a strange smile on his face.

Shi Jin blinked, baffled by his bizarre behavior, then secretly gave him the middle finger.

The meeting ended smoothly.
After it broke up, Zuo Yang, who was well-behaved the whole morning, approached Lian Jun.
He glanced at Shi Jin, who pushed the wheelchair, and said, “Lian Jun, Long Shi told me that he was nineteen when he gave you physical examination for the first time.
From then on, he was always by your side… Now you have another young subordinate—aren’t you afraid of repeating the same mistake? He’s about the same age, isn’t he? Young people’s love tends to breed hate—you should already know how scary that is.”

Gua One’s face darkened.
He whipped out his gun and aimed it at Zuo Yang’s heart.

Zuo Yang’s subordinates took out their guns and aimed at Lian Jun.

Shi Jin frowned.
He stepped in front of Lian Jun, glaring at Zuo Yang menacingly.

Zuo Yang raised an eyebrow.
He wore a ‘so it’s like this, after all’ expression on his face and said insincerely, “Wow, it seems I asked a stupid question—you’ve already made the same mistake.
I advise you quickly drive this kid away, Lian Jun, or he’ll become the second Long Shi.”

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