Jiang He had a strange dream.
He dreamed that he had turned into an apple tree.
The tree was laden with fruit, covered in ripe, red, and crispy Shandong apples.
The apples were so ripe that they fell off the tree on their own.
A person stood under the tree, catching the apples and taking a bite.
It never stopped.
Jiang He opened his eyes.
The first thing he saw was the white wall, followed by the iron frame and the drip bottles.
A young man sat not far from his bed, eating an apple.
Jiang He's teeth felt a little sour.
He looked at the young man, and the young man looked back at him.
After a while, the young man held up the apple core in his hand.
"Do you want some?"
Jiang He: ... "Where am I?"
He suddenly became alert.
"Did you bring me to the hospital?"
Coming to the hospital meant his whereabouts were exposed, and the killer would soon come knocking.
Instinctively, he tried to get up, but his hand felt a sharp pain.
He had pulled out the needle, and blood droplets oozed out.
Jiang He felt as if he had crossed over to another world.
He remembered going to celebrate Miss Zhen's birthday at the Bailemen, where guests were dressed in their finest attire.
Miss Zhen was the most beautiful of them all, but there was also He You'an, who outshone everyone else. He also remembered how Miss Zhen ignored all the wealthy young men in Shanghai and chose an unknown pretty boy to dance the first dance with.
He also remembered leaving early, being chased by a killer, who was determined to take his life.
He was alone, exhausted, and had been shot.
Then, someone suddenly appeared... It was the young man in front of him.
His name was –
Ling Shu finished his apple and tossed the core aside.
"Don't worry, you're not in the hospital. This is a Western clinic in the concession, and the doctor is a foreigner. Those people won't find you here for now. You can take your time to recover and have your men come pick you up later."
Jiang He's memories slowly returned.
He seemed to have been dragged along half-consciously.
The sensation of his feet dragging on the ground was so strong that his legs still felt numb and sore, as if... he had fallen?
To confirm that his memory was not mistaken, he lifted the blanket and rolled up his pant leg.
Sure enough, there was gauze on his knee, and he could see the red swelling at the edge.
Jiang He looked up at Ling Shu.
The latter exclaimed, "How come your knee is still injured? That's not my problem! I almost lost my life trying to save you!"
Jiang He asked, "What about those people?"
Ling Shu replied, "Lost track of them."
Jiang He said, "That's impossible. They are skilled trackers, and I'm injured. Even if you took down one of the four assassins, there were still three left. It's almost impossible for you to escape alone."
Even if Ling Shu managed to take down one of the four assassins, there were still three left. It seemed almost impossible for him to escape alone.
Ling Shu explained, "After you passed out, I didn't take you over the wall. Instead, I ran into the house. After we left through the front door, there were three forks in the road. I made some adjustments to make them think we went down one of the paths, so they split up to follow us. But in reality, we were hiding in the house. I waited until they were far away before taking you with me."
Jiang He remained noncommittal, unsure if he believed him or was simply impressed by Ling Shu's quick wit.
Ling Shu couldn't be bothered with what he was thinking.
"During your surgery, I ate two apples, a roujiamo, and a bowl of soy milk, totaling one point five cents. Seeing as we're in this together, I'll cover the rest. Also, if it weren't for me earlier, you would have died on the street. After you passed out, you didn't have enough money on you, so I covered the fees. With the debt of saving your life and helping you escape, what do you say?"
Jiang He was silent for a moment.
"Once I'm healed, I'll go get the money and personally deliver it to your home."
Ling Shu mockingly bowed. "Thank you then. Since we're now life and death friends, may I ask you a few unrelated questions? You wouldn't refuse a friend, would you?"
Jiang He remained silent, but Ling Shu didn't mind and continued to ask.
"What is your relationship with He You'an?" Ling Shu asked with a serious tone.
"We have no relationship. I told you, I don't know her," Jiang He replied.
Ling Shu stood up and sat on the edge of the bed, speaking with a heavy heart. "Old Jiang, this is not fair. I went through so much trouble to help you escape, risking our lives, and you still won't be straightforward. If you have no relationship with her, then why did you secretly meet with Chen Wendong on the balcony of the Bailemen club?"
"I didn't seek him out, he came to find me," Jiang He explained.
"Why did he come to find you?" Ling Shu asked.
"To buy a life," Jiang He replied.
"Whose life?" Ling Shu quickly corrected himself, realizing the question was inappropriate.
"Wait a minute. You may not know this, but I have been commissioned by He You'an to find the culprit behind the death threats she has been receiving. If your answer has nothing to do with this matter, then you don't need to answer me."
"It's related," Jiang He replied.
Ling Shu was taken aback and before he could think deeply, he saw a hint of a smile on Jiang He's pale lips, his eyes seemingly filled with malicious glee.
"He wants to buy your life," Jiang He said.
Ling Shu had been investigating the series of death threats against He You'an and traced it back to Chen Wendong.
And now, Chen Wendong also wanted Ling Shu dead.
What a coincidence.
"I don't even know him, we've barely spoken a few words," Ling Shu said.
"I do things for money, I never ask for reasons. If he pays and I'm willing, I'll take the job," Jiang He replied with a shrug.
Ling Shu pointed to himself and said, "Lao Jiang, look at me. Handsome and elegant, a rare gem in this world. Once I'm gone, there won't be many like me left. Besides, I just saved your life today. Are you going to repay me with ingratitude?"
Jiang He replied, "I can give you a large sum of money to repay your kindness, and then kill you. That way, we'll be even."
Ling Shu retorted, "What kind of repayment is that? Can you measure a life with money? Give me the money first, and I'll run for my life. You can pretend you never saw me today. We'll meet again someday, or maybe never."
Jiang He hadn't felt the simple joy of laughter in a long time. But as soon as he tried to laugh, the pain from his wounds made his face turn dark.
Ling Shu thought he wouldn't agree and sighed, "Oh well, I guess I'm out of luck. I was originally going to ask you for some reward money, but now it seems that if you can give me back the surgery fee and meal money, it's almost enough. I'll take the loss. In light of our acquaintance, let's call it ten silver dollars. I know you have money in your jacket pocket. When we were running for our lives earlier, I had high moral character and didn't take a single penny. Now that you're awake, if I take the money in front of you, it's not considered stealing, right?"
After speaking, he really got up and reached for the coat hanging on the rack.
Jiang He said, "I didn't agree."
"Hmm?" Ling Shu searched in the coat pocket without looking up.
Jiang He said, "I didn't accept his deal."
Ling Shu immediately withdrew his hand, returned to the bedside, and smiled warmly, asking about Jiang He's well-being.
"Why didn't you say earlier if your wound still hurts? I can have the doctor come in and give you more painkillers," said Ling Shu.
Jiang He remained silent.
"Did he offer too little money?" Ling Shu asked.
Jiang He answered evasively, "He You'an is not as simple as you think."
The tension was palpable.
Ling Shu tucked him in and poured a glass of hot water. "You need to drink more hot water when you're sick. Please continue."
Jiang He couldn't hold a cup with one arm shot and the other on a drip, but Ling Shu didn't seem to have any intention of feeding him. Instead, he grabbed an apple from the side and took a big bite.
Jiang He said, "He You'an once asked me to kill two people."
Ling Shu was horrified. "She? Asked you to kill? Who?"
If that was true, He You'an was quite the actress.
Jiang He said, "Xiao Jun and Chen Youhua."
"What's their background?" asked Ling Shu.
These were two completely unfamiliar names, and Ling Shu couldn't find any information about them in his memory.
Jiang He explained, "One is a tailor at a tailor shop. His family has been in the tailoring business for three generations, and he is the fourth generation. The tailor shop has been open for decades, and although it's not very famous, the neighbors are willing to go to him for clothes. The other is a newspaper employee who is responsible for printing the newspaper. He's in his forties, and his children died young. He has a second wife from a remarriage, and he's honest and hardworking. He goes home on time every day and is a bit of a homebody."
Ling Shu frowned, "These two people seem to have no connection to He You'an. Are you sure she asked you to kill them?"
Jiang He said, "The hit list and the money were handed to me in a file bag by He You'an himself. However, according to my investigation, it was Shen Shiqi who wanted the person killed. He You'an didn't know what was in the file bag, she just followed Shen Shiqi's orders and gave it to me."
Ling Shu breathed a sigh of relief, "That's good, I knew she wasn't that kind of person. Are those two people still alive?"
Jiang He replied, "One is dead, the other is alive."
Ling Shu asked, "Have you ever failed a mission?"
Jiang He answered, "Chen Youhua disappeared on the day the hitman was sent out. Nothing in his house was touched, he and his wife just vanished."
Ling Shu said, "So you failed the mission? What happened afterwards?"
Jiang He said, "After a month, my men happened to be in Hangzhou and saw Chen Youhua frequenting a bookstore there. What's more, just as he went in, He You'an also entered the same bookstore."
Ling Shu asked, "Why would He You'an be in Hangzhou?"
Jiang He replied, "I later found out that those days, He You'an happened to be visiting relatives in Hangzhou. She said she had a distant aunt living there."
Ling Shu laughed, "I knew it. Your curiosity is no less than mine. You must have dug deep to find out if He You'an really had such an aunt."
Jiang He said, "She does. Her aunt lives not far from West Lake, is quite old, and has limited mobility. I sent someone to investigate and the other party did indeed call He You'an her niece and even knew her nickname."
Ling Shu asked, "So you're saying that it's just a coincidence that He You'an appeared with Chen Youhua?"
Jiang He replied coldly, "There are no coincidences in life. Too many coincidences can make people suspicious. That's why I say that He You'an is not as simple as she seems on the surface."
Ling Shu said, "But she couldn't possibly ask me for help while also sending Chen Wendong to hire you to kill me, right? I have no grudges with her. What would be the point of doing that?"