“Go back to Beijing.” A cold, emotionless sentence came out of Lu Chong’s mouth. He stopped looking at Lao Ding and bypassed him to go upstairs.
A look of surprise appeared in Lao Ding’s eyes as he watched Lu Chong’s back. He finally bowed his head and said, “Yes.”
Lu Chong hesitated for a moment, then walked towards Luo Wencheng’s room and opened the door. It was an extremely tidy room. The quilt on the bed was neatly spread, and there were no items on the bedside table or desktop. At first glance, it looked a bit like a hotel waiting for a guest to stay.
Lu Chong was taken aback, as if sensing something. He went to open the wardrobe. The clothes inside were neatly stacked, occupying only one compartment, as if to make it easy for people to collect them.
The bathroom was also clean; there was not a drop of water on the floor or countertop, the towels were folded up, and there were the cup, the toothbrush, toiletries and other items next to them, as if they were garbage to be taken away.
Lu Chong couldn’t get back to his senses for a long time.
“Meow~” There was a delicate sound, and Ribs dragged her fat body in gracefully and glamorously, circling around the room. She didn’t see the person she looked for, only the big cold man of the house.
Ribs squatted at the door of the bathroom and yelled fiercely at the man inside, as if asking him for someone.
Lu Chong looked down at Ribs and after a while squatted down and touched her head: “He’s gone.”
“He was going to leave.” Lu Chong said in a daze, “He was going to leave in the morning.”
Everything can be done once but not again. With his stubbornness and self-esteem, how could Luo Wencheng linger, bearing his attitude, pretending that nothing happened?
Lu Chong just didn’t expect that the young man was so decisive and so straightforward. But even so, he still had to suffer humiliation for nothing before leaving.
“Meow!!” Ribs reached out to scratch him. Go after him, you stupid shit shovelling officer!
“You want me to go get him back? But I’m the one who forced him away.”
“Meow…” Ribs tilted her head and looked at him for a while, then left sullenly, her fat belly rubbing against the floor. From behind it looked like a carpet with four legs sliding slowly, indescribably dejected.
Lu Chong had been restraining himself from thinking about Luo Wencheng all morning. He handled various documents from Beijing as usual, paying attention to the progress of the amusement park as usual, without showing the slightest sign of abnormality.
It was only at noon that Zhou Qian came to report, somewhat hesitantly, that Luo Wencheng had not gone to school at all.
Lu Chong thought that he had probably gone somewhere to take a walk or just in a daze.
He told himself not to worry about it, but still instructed Zhou Qian to go and look for Luo Wencheng.
He also quietly sent a few extra men to assist Zhou Qian.
After an hour, nothing was found.
After two hours, there was no news.
After three hours and four hours, there was still no news.
More and more people were sent out, but they didn’t bring the slightest useful news. Finally, when it got dark, Lu Chong couldn’t sit still. After thinking for a minute, he expanded his search to the entire Haining, all hotels, hostels, libraries, cinemas, shopping malls, and reached into the transportation system to thoroughly investigate the flights, trains and buses that left Haining today.
After all, he didn’t have a lot of manpower in Haining, and he hadn’t infiltrated the local forces. Such a large-scale search was bound to alert many people, so soon many people knew that he was looking for someone.
But doing so was also effective. At eight o’clock in the evening, Lu Chong received tangible news. Luo Wencheng left Haining by train at 12:15 this morning. The destination was a city outside the province.
When Lu Chong heard the news, his whole body was shocked.
Luo Wencheng didn’t take anything with him, and he didn’t have any money on him. What was he doing, going so far away?
He stood up, sat down again, called Zhou Qian over, telling him to rush over there immediately.
“Find him, but don’t alarm him, just make sure he is safe.”
He looked at the two things in his hand, one was a key to a small apartment next to Haining Academy of Arts and the other was a black bank card with no limit.
This was prepared by him in the morning for Luo Wencheng.
He gave the card to Zhou Qian: “If he needs it, give him this.”
“Yes.” Zhou Qian took the card with both hands, and seeing that Lu Chong had no other instructions, he excused himself and left quickly.
At the same time, in “Golden Glory”, Liu Weizhi was practising on his two old friends.
One was naturally Lao Ding, and the other was Zhou Yishan.
“Lao Ding, it’s all your fault. You were driven away by Master but you still have to drag me along with you.” Zhou Yishan drank a glass of wine and yelled in displeasure.
Lao Ding didn’t say anything. Liu Weizhi said with a smile: “Master is angry, it’s good for you to go back first. It just so happens that Master has been in Haining for so long, and those people in the north are a bit bouncy, especially the Chen family. I heard that they have been prancing very badly recently.”
“Huh, a bunch of fleas, that Chen Jingqiu, his brother-in-law is dead, his son is ruined, his wife turned against him, his own lair is a mess. If he dares to reach his paws to Master, see if I don’t chop off his paws.” Zhou Yishan said disdainfully, and tsk’ed at Lao Ding again, “Lao Ding, ah. You are really not doing very well this time. There is no room for us to get involved in Master’s personal affairs. You did that, and Master just told you to go back to Beijing. If it was me, I’d knock out your teeth.”
Liu Weizhi glanced at him, and then looked at Lao Ding: “Lao Ding also did it for Master’s good but it was indeed a bit too much. Master has never liked us to play tricks on our own initiative.”
“Then what would you do in his place?” Zhou Yishan asked.
Liu Weizhi slowly and methodically polished the glass in his hand, “Probably find Luo Wencheng and have a good talk. He is a reasonable person, he can be persuaded, why make things too ugly?”
Lao Ding suddenly smiled: “In that case, you wouldn’t end up much better than me. I thought about it all day and finally figured out that Master didn’t punish me because I made my own decision.”
“Why then?” Zhou Yishan asked.
Lao Ding looked at his two old friends and smiled: “It’s getting late, time to go. Lao Liu, you will be the only one by Master’s side from now on, take care of him for us.”
After speaking, Lao Ding picked up his things and left.
Zhou Yishan said in discontent: “This old guy is the most annoying when he says half of it.” He finished drinking the wine in the glass in one gulp and went after Lao Ding to continue questioning.
Liu Weizhi’s movements slowed down and finally stopped.
He smiled and sighed. He understood what Lao Ding hadn’t finished saying. Master was angry not because Lao Ding made his own decision, but because Lao Ding stretched out his hand to Luo Wencheng and made Luo Wencheng sad and embarrassed.
It was not so much anger, but actually more like self-defence after feeling distressed, right?
“…inverse scale?” His fat face was thoughtful.
“Manager Liu, Zhou Qian has already left.” A waiter came over and said.
Liu Weizhi nodded: “Send more people to follow, make sure nothing goes wrong.”
It was not very peaceful recently, or rather there was no real peace around Master. They could protect him in Haining, but it was hard to say what would happen if he left Haining. And now, there were probably a lot of people who knew that Luo Wencheng was Master’s inverse scale, right?
At half past eight, Luo Wencheng walked out of the rail station.
On the night of early May, the wind was quite cold, and the city was north of Haining, so the temperature was even lower.
Luo Wencheng tightened his windbreaker, found a taxi that looked more reliable and went to a four-star hotel with a good reputation.
After using his ID card to get a room, Luo Wencheng put down the drawing board, turned on the heating, took off his coat, sat on the bed, took out his wallet and calculated his money.
He was not as pitiful as Lu Chong thought, at least he was not penniless. When he left, he took the 10,000 yuan that he won in the competition, and then the 10,000 yuan red envelope that Lu Chong had given him for the New Year.
Twenty thousand yuan; the taxi and the hotel deposit were more than a thousand yuan. The rest, if he was frugal, was enough for him to survive till death, but it was not enough for what he had to do.
He took out a small notebook with some things he had reorganised.
Zhang Qihui: 48 years old, claiming to be from M City, with a heavy accent, graduated from junior school, about 1.75 metres tall, decent looking, dark-skinned, has a small burn mark on his left arm, walks with a slight limp, loves to eat fish, is strong. During the conversation, he revealed that he had worked in a car repair shop in his hometown after dropping out of school, and then went out to work together with his wife Lan Xiufang after getting married.
Luo Wencheng flipped to the back, not looking at the page in detail but rubbed gently the last line “Died of obstetric disease at the age of 23, the details are unknown”, and then turned back to the first page.
Zhang Qihui, this was the name of his biological father.
As a son, and with such a clear lead, it was impossible not to look for him; and it just so happened that Luo Wencheng didn’t know what to do with his remaining few months, so he decided to find him.
“It’s better to find a detective when you’re clueless like that.” Luo Wencheng looked at the little money he had and shook his head, muttering to himself, “I should have asked Lu Chong for some money before I left, I wouldn’t have had to pay it back anyway.”
He got out of bed and took out the drawing board, set it up and started a draft with a pencil.
Last time, he won the city competition and directly advanced to the provincial competition. Although he had left school and left Haining, this competition was meant to be open to the public, except that it might be easier to get noticed with a recommendation from the school.
Now that he had the honour of being the city champion, it didn’t matter if he had a school connection or not.
He would continue to participate in the competition, not only for the considerable prize money, but also because the organiser would arrange for the winners to go abroad to visit the painting exhibition.
It would be September at that time, and the end of September was the end of the year.
He didn’t want to die in the country.
But if he went abroad with the organisers, he didn’t know if he would fall asleep and not wake up, and if he would make it difficult for the organisers.
Maybe he could make an excuse that it was not easy to go abroad and he wanted to travel on his own, and then leave alone quietly and unnoticed…
But then he would become a missing person, right?
Luo Wencheng paused and thought for a while in silence. He didn’t feel very good. What if… what if that man went looking for his whereabouts?
If he couldn’t find him, it would be too troublesome.
It was better to die in a clear way.
The next day Luo Wencheng went out. After asking the receptionist, he found an agency that had a good reputation and was reliable, and hired it to find Zhang Qihui.
The agency really looked very reliable, but the cost was a bit high. When Luo Wencheng went out again, he had five thousand yuan less.
It was just a deposit, and he would have to pay more if they found someone.
Luo Wencheng felt pressure.
He started looking for a part-time job.
He looked good, talked well, and his clothes were still the same ones he wore in Haining. Most people looked at him and considered him high-end. What ordinary people didn’t see was that he dressed expensively but his pockets were empty, so when he said he was looking for a part-time job to experience life, it was easy to find a job.
He found an old job, bartending. Every night from 7pm to 10pm, not working later. Because of his excellent skills, he made a name for himself after only two nights, and the manager who had looked at him with disdain immediately changed his face.
However, after all, the bar was a mixed bag, and his looks were there. There were always people who tried to strike up a conversation or grope him. There were even people who followed him after he got off work.
Although those people always lost him inexplicably halfway through and the hammer in his bag never had a chance to appear, Luo Wencheng resigned after only working for half a month for safety reasons. With a little salary and a lot of tips, he walked away very gracefully.
While working as a bartender, he also got some jobs painting.
With the student ID card of Haining Academy of Arts, it was quite easy.
Every morning, he would teach the children in the studio and in the afternoon he would take on commissions. Some people simply wanted his paintings, while others were looking for him as a gunman (somebody who produces a piece of work for somebody else to pass off as their own). As long as the price was reasonable, Luo Wencheng basically did not refuse anyone who came. The price was defined according to the painting’s simplicity or complexity, and varied from tens to hundreds, or even thousands.
The day after he quit his job as a bartender and was about to find another job, news came from the agency.
He went over and heard that Zhang Qihui was indeed a real person, and his biography was correct. Twenty years ago, he returned to his hometown in the countryside of M City. By then the rumours that his child was lost and his wife died spread around the countryside for a long time.
However, because the rumours had spread for too long and there were too many talks about his hard life and incompetence, or maybe because there were too many unreliable matchmakers on his doorstep, Zhang Qihui didn’t stay in his hometown for too long, but left a few months later.
He was never heard from again and never came back.
The reason why it took the agency half a month to reply to Luo Wencheng was because they tried to find out where Zhang Qihui had gone, and only called him after finally finding the exact address.
Luo Wencheng walked out of the office with the new address, thinking that the agency was really reliable, and of course it was true that he was broke now.
He thought it was a good thing he was so diligent, otherwise he wouldn’t have known where to get the money for his evening meal.
He worked through the night on several paintings and went to turn them in early the next morning before finally handing in the room money for the new day before twelve o’clock.
He didn’t plan to reduce the accommodation fee of more than three hundred yuan a day. However, there were not many people looking for him to be a gunman. His income from painting alone was limited, so he thought for a while and found a job in the kitchen.
It was a small restaurant, not very formal. With many pots and pans of dishes to cook every day, it was also hard work, but it was better this way because the salary was paid daily, the boss was generous, and the customers were indicative. If the dishes were cooked well, there would be more people, the attitude of the guests would be enthusiastic, the turnover of the restaurant would be high, and Luo Wencheng’s bonus on the day would be high.
Unlike in a big restaurant, where to make noodles you had to get reviewed, have a health certificate and a qualification certificate, where there was a lot of competition in the back kitchen and you couldn’t just leave if you wanted to, otherwise you would lose wages and bonuses.
After observing Luo Wencheng for many days, Zhou Qian, who was secretly following him, wrote in his email to Lu Chong that day: “Young Master Luo is very short of money, but he also makes money very quickly, and he doesn’t seem to need that bank card.”
A few minutes later, in the study of the three-storey villa, this email appeared on the computer desktop in front of Lu Chong.