Ling Shu was gasping for breath.
He was gasping heavily and feeling very uncomfortable.
A fire was burning fiercely in his chest and lungs, constantly surging upwards, looking for a way out.
His ribs felt like a blunt knife was cutting and stabbing, causing him so much pain that he wished he could roll on the ground and howl.
Not to mention the torment of his internal organs, which felt like they were being turned upside down, with a splitting headache and burning limbs.
But Ling Shu neither rolled nor howled.
He just breathed heavily, his chest rising and falling.
His breathing was particularly clear in the darkness, even he himself felt deafening.
Ling Shu was pressing on Yue Dingtang.
It was not intentional to take advantage of him, but he had no strength to move anymore.
There was no sound in the darkness.
After the gunshot, everything seemed to return to ancient times. The surroundings were silent, even outside the corridor, there seemed to be no movement at all.
Did only Yue Dingtang and him come over?
No one outside?
Then how did they find their way here and find Ivanov's whereabouts?
As his body grew weaker, his mind became clearer.
Ling Shu was waiting.
Waiting for Yue Dingtang to push him away.
Or maybe, to shoot him in the temple.
To end it all, to put an end to everything.
But what he waited for was someone slowly lifting him up.
"Are you dead?"
Ling Shu heard Yue Dingtang ask.
As he opened his mouth, his voice was hoarse.
He tasted the bloody taste in his mouth, and felt the hot flow rushing up, painful and scorching.
"There should be no shortage of bullets in your gun."
Yue Dingtang said he hesitated.
Ling Shu wanted to laugh, but he couldn't.
The feeling of a gun pointed at his forehead was still fresh in his memory.
When he lunged towards Yue Dingtang, he never thought he would make it out alive.
Even if the other party fired a shot at him, he was about 70-80% confident that he could avoid the vital points, take the gun away, kill Mr. Liu, subdue Yue Dingtang, and hold the situation until Old Yuan arrived.
Despite the fact that his body had not been so tumultuous in many years, he gave it his all and let his old bones burn one last time.
Since he had fallen into this pit dug by Old Yuan, he had to see it through to the end and help fill it up for others.
"Who is Mr. Liu?"
"He's from the Municipal Government."
"You shot him."
"If nothing unexpected happens, he should be dead."
Yue Dingtang's tone was light, as if he were floating in the sky.
But Ling Shu felt like his head was spinning, making everything sound like it was floating.
Northeast China is now unquestionably under Japanese control.
Although the Municipal Government is nominally the official government of Fengtian City, and local officials are used, some of them may have been left behind by Zhang Zuolin during his tenure, but these people must also be backed by the Japanese.
A rootless duckweed cannot survive for long.
No matter who Mr. Liu is behind, if Yue Dingtang kills him, it will be a big trouble.
Moreover, since the two of them came together, it means that at least not long ago, they were still on the same boat.
In the blink of an eye, they turned against each other.
When you beat a dog, you have to look at its owner.
If Yue Dingtang kills someone, can he escape unscathed?
Ling Shu had a lot of questions he wanted to ask.
But he was very tired and just wanted to close his eyes and get a good night's sleep. Even his wish was a luxury.
The weather was freezing, and the ground beneath him was especially icy.
Early spring had yet to bring any warmth to the northeastern land, and Ling Shu felt as though there were still bits of ice and frost in the soil.
No wonder it was so cold.
The chill penetrated his skin and reached his bones. His eyelids grew heavy.
Suddenly, he felt a slap on his face!
"Don't fall asleep," a voice said.
Ling Shu groaned, "Can't you be more gentle?"
"Where is what you were talking about?" the voice demanded.
Ling Shu lazily replied, "So Mr. Yue wants to keep everything for himself?"
"Three forks in the road, one leads to life, one to death, and one has something in it. The path you wanted to take me down earlier was the one leading to death, wasn't it?" Yue Dingtang said.
Ling Shu fell silent.
In the darkness, he heard the sound of a match being struck.
A lantern was lit.
The glass cover was cracked, but it still provided some light. "Can you still walk?" Yue Dingtang asked him.
"No, I can't." Ling Shu remained motionless, determined to never leave the wall until the end of time.
Yue Dingtang didn't force him. "Since this path is a dead end, there are still two other paths we can take. I'll go check them out first."
Ling Shu's heart stirred. "Wait, I'll go with you."
He slowly stood up, leaning against the wall and struggling to breathe.
Yue Dingtang handed him the lantern.
Ling Shu was confused. "Are you human? I'm injured like this and you still make me carry the lantern."
"I'll carry you." Yue Dingtang said, patting his arm and gesturing for him to climb onto his back.
Ling Shu noticed that his movements were quite light, skillfully avoiding the injured ribs.
He entrusted his entire weight to the other person and felt the warmth of their skin.
He couldn't help but let out a sigh of relief.
"Much more comfortable."
"My second brother has close ties with the Japanese side and knows many inside stories that even I am not aware of. This trip to the Guan family's funeral is the best opportunity. I entrusted myself to negotiate with the people from the Municipal Government and take over Mr. Cheng's business, which is equivalent to taking over the liaison line between Northeast China and Shanghai."
Ling Shu nodded lightly, so light that he didn't even notice it himself.
It seemed that Yue Dingtang heard him and continued speaking.
"You know, although the Yue family is not rich and wealthy now, we have no worries about food and clothing. Coupled with the connections of our eldest and second brothers, we can stand firm in Shanghai. But..."
"But," Ling Shu coughed twice and continued, "there are always gains and losses. It's not easy to maintain a balance among various forces, and not everyone can allow the Yue family to have influence everywhere."
Yue Dingtang nodded, "That's right. The eldest and second brother have different opinions on this matter. The second brother thinks that Japan is currently unstoppable, and with the trend in Nanjing, they may have to give up some territory and establish good relations with Japan, which would be more beneficial than harmful. But the eldest brother believes that Europe and America will not sit idly by, and Japan's reputation is already bad enough. The Yue family is already strong enough to protect itself, and there's no need to wade into this muddy water."
Yue Dingtang spoke at a moderate pace and kept his tone low, but to Ling Shu's ears, it was like a thunderbolt.
What Yue Dingtang was saying now must be a secret of the Yue family that few people knew. The act of forming alliances is something that can be understood but not easily explained.
Having followed Yue Dingtang for so long, Ling Shu had heard bits and pieces about it, but had never asked.
It concerned the way the Yue family established themselves and their way of life.
Yue Dingtang was only a university professor and did not involve himself in these matters. Even if Ling Shu were to ask, he might not know, and even if he did, he might not say.
There was an invisible line between the two of them that could not be crossed, and it was not to be tested.
Ling Shu did not know Yue Dingtang's trump card, and Yue Dingtang did not know Ling Shu's secret.
"You don't have to tell me these things," Ling Shu said nonchalantly.
"Second Brother can't go to the northeast in person, that would be too conspicuous, so he thought of me."
"I also want to know how deeply Second Brother is involved in this mess, so I have to come and see for myself.
"Do you remember the day when Kagesawa came to pick me up to go to the municipal office? The car we were in exploded on the spot. Actually, I knew it was going to happen because someone had notified me in advance. I also knew that the bomb was placed under Kagesawa's seat, so I deliberately sat in a position diagonally behind him. When the explosion happened, I could quickly open the car door and escape without being harmed.
"The hospital explosion that happened later was also intentionally arranged. The person who planned the explosion wanted to use these two incidents to get rid of the people behind Mr. Liu. Even if I hadn't been there, the incident would have probably happened as planned. However, I was an active participant and played a role."
Ling Shu felt like he understood, but also felt a bit confused. At first, he thought it was a group of people who hated the Japanese and were taking action, maybe even Old Yuan's accomplices.
But later, he realized it wasn't quite like that.
It wasn't until Yue Dingtang spoke up and revealed the truth.
"Fengtian City is not a monolithic entity. There are factions here, and people are fighting each other."
Ling Shu finally understood.
"Mr. Cheng, Kagesawa, Mr. Liu, even the people behind Mr. Liu, and your second brother, are all on one side. And the ones who caused the explosion, who don't want you to cooperate, are on the other side?"
Yue Dingtang nodded. "That's right. I don't want the Yue family to be dragged into the mud by my second brother, so I used the other side to create trouble and cut off his chance to cooperate with Mr. Liu directly."
At this moment, Ling Shu lightly patted his shoulder.
Yue Dingtang stopped and put him down. The silhouette ahead was faintly illuminated by the horse lamp.
"There's a ditch up ahead. People in a hurry can easily fall and get hurt. Even if you cross it, there will be arrow nets falling on top of it."
"Left by Tang Yulin?"
"No, it was done by Old Yuan and old master Guan."
The two were very close, and Ling Shu was breathing heavily, suppressing his pain.
His hot breath sprayed all over Yue Dingtang's ear.
It was a bit itchy and numb.
He couldn't help but raise his hand to scratch his ear.
But halfway through, his hand naturally turned and rested on Ling Shu's waist, helping him sit more comfortably.
"You didn't have to kill Mr. Liu just now," Ling Shu said.
Yue Dingtang's face was calm.
"His marksmanship is accurate, and he's ruthless in killing. If I had been a step slower, it would have been you who died."
Ling Shu asked, "Why did you come here?"
Yue Dingtang said, "Mr. Liu received news that there is a secret hidden in the Buddhist pagoda left to me by old master Guan."
Ling Shu was amused, thinking he had been fooled again.
"Is it related to the treasure of the Qing Dynasty?"
"Perhaps the Qing Dynasty did not leave behind any treasure, but old master Guan must have left something important. Otherwise, you and Old Yuan wouldn't have come here in the middle of the night. The death of Kagesawa made Mr. Liu's backers very angry. After Mr. Liu found out about Ivanov's whereabouts, he brought me along to track him down and get the treasures before anyone else, hoping to redeem himself and make amends."
"I was already prepared to die just now."
"I know," said Yue Dingtang.
Ling Shu murmured, "I never thought you would just kill him directly, Old Yue. Even to this day, I can't completely understand what you're thinking. But being able to survive and chat with you here, I..."
Are you feeling sentimental, touched, or excited?
Ling Shu's voice became lower and lower.
Yue Dingtang couldn't hear clearly and couldn't help but lean in closer.
Who knew the other party also leaned in close to his ear.
Yue Dingtang wanted to say something casual, that in times of chaos, anything could happen.
He wanted to ask if Ling Shu and Old Yuan were old acquaintances, where they wanted to take the things, and who was helping them.
He also wanted to ask about that night when Ling Shu drugged him, did he ever think about what would happen after he found out? Did he plan to leave and never see each other again? But Ling Shu remained silent, inexplicably swallowing all the voices that had gathered in his throat.
His heart pounded like a drum, yet he made no sound.
Ling Shu's lips were so close to the scorching skin that they almost touched it.
Yue Dingtang didn't move a muscle.
Only his throat slid up and down slightly.
If, and only if, Ling Shu were to make a move, would Yue Dingtang refuse or accept him?