Zhang Hu felt a cold chill run down his spine. Obsequiously, he bowed and asked, “Brother Chen, please don’t be mad. This is undeniably our fault. We are all blind cows. Please just spare us with your generosity.”
“Is it because I’ve been away from Zhonghai for too long? Or has the world changed to the point that the Red Thorns Society has to become hired hitmen?”
Zhang Hu’s face turned sour in an instant. “Well… It’s not that ugly yet. Though it does seem a tad bit below par compared to President Szeto’s reign. Boss Zhao is not half bad himself.”
“So, when this guy calls, you go right over to lick his boots?”
“Brother Chen, there are things you might not be aware of. We gangsters nowadays don’t have it easier than regular office workers. These ordinary people are deemed good citizens, while we are called hooligans. If we were to get into big trouble, no one would be able to save us. It’d already be a huge relief if the country doesn’t banish us.” Zhang Hu then lowered his voice into a whisper. “This man, Boss Wang, has strong connections. We can’t afford to rub him up the wrong way, so it’s a must to curry favor with him.”
Hearing Zhang Hu’s murmurs, Wang An grumbled in displeasure. “Zhang Hu! Are you sick of your job?! Believe it or not, I am one phone call away from throwing you into jail!”
Startled, Zhang Hu frantically waved his hands in denial. “Boss Wang, I didn’t say anything bad about you. I’ll leave now, I’ll leave now!”
“Trying to leave? If you don’t bring your men tomorrow and teach this piece of shit a lesson, I’ll report you to the police and have you all eat prison food!” Wang An’s lips stretched into an evil grin before he added, “All it takes is one sentence from me. Do you think your gangster background can save your sorry ass?”
Zhang Hu stared at Yang Chen piteously, shooting him pleading looks.
Yang Chen smirked back uncannily at him. “Don’t worry. Do as you’re told and you’ll be just fine.”
Zhang Hu quickly nodded. “Yes, Brother Chen. So, what do you say?”
“Bring a few men and beat him up!”
“Huh?!” a surprised exclamation escaped Zhang Hu’s lips.
“What ‘huh’? I said, bring a few men to beat him up until he starts begging for mercy,” Yang Chen reiterated.
Trembling, Zhang Hu could be seen repeatedly opening his mouth to speak, but nothing tumbled off his tongue.
“Hey! You piece of shit, how dare you still lie through your teeth! Earth to Zhang Hu! What are you still doing?! Are you going to jail or are you beating him up?” Wang An snarled.
Zhang Hu eyed Wang An, then glanced at a profoundly anxious Yang Chen. Various thoughts flitted through his mind.
There’s no way I can help Wang An. Yang Chen is undoubtedly capable of taking a life. If I were to retreat, I’d offend both parties. The only way out of this for me is to believe in Yang Chen!
It was also owing to the trust he put in Yang Chen from the beginning that he managed to venture this far. Hence, Zhang Hu decided to give it another gamble!
“Brothers, beat this man of the Wang family!”
Zhang Hu gritted his teeth and howled. Subsequently, a group of thugs rushed down immediately and began giving Wang An the treatment he deserved!
Fists and feet landed on Wang An’s body like large raindrops and, being utterly unprepared as he was, his body was instantly pressed onto the ground by a few burly men!
“Ah! This is assault and battery! Are you trying to rebel?! I’m going to sue all of you!” From afar, Mrs Wang shrieked her lungs out but remained disinclined to approach.
Teacher Hou and the others in the kindergarten were too scared to watch. Whatever was unfolding before their eyes were not something they could intervene in.
Troubled, Lin Ruoxi frowned and asked Yang Chen, “Is this too much? You could’ve let him go.”
Yang Chen shook his head. “I am a grudgeful person. Since he wishes to send people to beat me up, I ought to do the same.”
Lanlan’s sparkling eyes overflowed with excitement while she swung her fleshy little fists around as though she desired to join the game.
Seeing this scene, Lin Ruoxi said to Yang Chen in dismay, “Look at you, you’re corrupting the child.”
“Hehe, what’s there to be afraid of? Why don’t you talk about how Lanlan knows to protect her little frenemy and fight for justice? It’s fine to get physical. As long as you are not on the receiving end.”
As Yang Chen spoke, Wang An was now sprawled out on the ground, blood oozing out of his nostrils as well as the corners of his eyes and mouth. Dotted across his face and body were patches of green and purple, and the ripped-off collar on his coat made him look foolish and unruly.
Zhang Hu personally dragged Wang An over to Yang Chen, relief manifested on his face.
“Brother Chen, what do you think? Shall we continue?”
Wang An was terrified. He immediately began to shake his head like mad and begged amid a blur. “Please stop! You’re going to kill me!”
Yang Chen replied with an incredibly sly smirk, “That’s fine. Just kowtow and admit your wrongdoings. I don’t want much, just three will do. Admit that this matter is your son’s fault, admit that you were impolite, to begin with.”
Wang An still could not bring himself to bow before him. Biting the bullet, he said daringly, “I… I am an official member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference! You can’t do this to me!”
“Screw your bullshit!”
Yang Chen pitched a kick at Wang An, throwing him to the ground. “So what if you’re a member of the CPPCC? Who voted for you?! Aren’t you a businessman?! Aren’t you a coal boss?! Don’t tell me that unearthing a piece of coal earns you a vote!”
Being an avid reader, Yang Chen was rather familiar with the Chinese political system and many major conferences.
From aside, Zhang Hu elucidated in a hushed voice, “Brother Chen, this fella is indeed a member of the CPPCC. But it’s also worth noting that he got in thanks to the Wang family’s status as the local gangsters in Shanxi. His brother is the youngest deputy secretary of the Shanxi Provincial Party Committee. It seems their ancestral roots date back to the founding general of the country. He only came to Zhonghai a couple of months ago. To put it in nicer words, it’s to generate some appealing political achievements to aid his promotion as an official.”
“Oh… A family of officials on top of being descendants of the founding heroes.” Yang Chen’s mood seemed to have lifted all of a sudden.
Catching the turn in the conversation, Wang An started nodding like a lunatic at once and his eyes lit up with a flicker of hope. “That’s right! The Wang family has impressive influential powers! If it weren’t for my thirst for qualifications and experience before becoming an official, I wouldn’t have come here! In fact, I am currently considered an official of high importance! Assuming that you spare me tomorrow, I will be sure to grant you great benefits!”
Since the facts were already on the table, Wang An decided to not conceal anymore. Instead, he told a big fat lie.
“I bet it’s not some great benefit but more like your return with people to arrest us,” Yang Chen sneered.
Seeing that his intentions were disclosed, Wang An hastily plastered on a miserable grimace. “No way, why would I do that… Why don’t we minimize this matter, hm…”
Yang Chen’s expression instantly turned grim. “Are you going to kowtow or do you want a second go?”
Wang An shuddered at his words. When he saw Zhang Hu grinding his fists in preparation, he hollered right away, “I’ll do it, I’ll do it!”
“Remember to mention that it was your mistake.”
As he spoke, Yang Chen pulled out his phone to film the ending of his kowtow session. Although there was no obligation, it might serve useful in evading certain troublesome affairs.
Wang An’s eyes brimmed with resentment, but anything was better than death. Thus, he obediently performed three kowtows and admitted that he was to blame.
Three kowtows later, Wang An asked tentatively, “So… can we leave now?”
Yang Chen turned to Lin Ruoxi, awaiting her prompt.
Lin Ruoxi produced a fresh cheque from her bag, where an amount of a full hundred thousand Chinese dollars was stated at the bottom. She then stepped forward and handed it to Mrs Wang.
“This should be enough to cover your son’s medical expenses. I apologize for my daughter’s actions, but I hope you won’t put us in another tough spot in the future.”
Mrs Wang retrieved the medical fees and hauled Wang An along timidly. The three scurried out of the kindergarten in a haste.
Now that things seemed to have died down a little, Zhang Hu winced and groaned. “Brother Chen, we’ve given that guy a whipping but with his personality, he will certainly seek revenge. You are skilled and from there you are bold, so you have nothing to fear. We, on the other hand, cannot hold out. If the police happen to track us down for interrogations, Boss Zhao will not be able to keep all of us out of trouble!”
Yang Chen patted the baldie’s shoulders. “Do rest assured. If he does seek revenge, I will be his first target. Before he seeks you out, he will already be finished.”
Zhang Hu froze, taken aback. He then asked dubiously, “Really? The Wang family has such immense power! I’ve heard that they have influence almost everywhere.”
“God damn it. When I say yes, I mean yes. Get lost!” Yang Chen could not find a single sliver of patience in himself to clarify further.
Zhang Hu had no other choice. Thinking that matters could effortlessly be resolved by a call from Boss Zhao, he gathered his men and left promptly.
Once the mob took off, the kindergarten finally plunged into its initial silence.
Lin Ruoxi led Lanlan by the hand up to Teacher Hou and said, “My apologies for causing a scene. Are the results perhaps acceptable to the teachers?”
Teacher Hou and the rest dared not express the slightest hint of dissatisfaction. All of them nodded diligently with warm smiles. They watched with their own eyes as Lin Ruoxi simply signed a hundred thousand dollar cheque with ease. This could only mean two things. She was either filthy rich or a noble!
Unbeknown to them, however, was the fact that Lin Ruoxi couldn't care less about money. As long as the other party was willing to communicate properly, she would not mind a million-dollar compensation.
Meanwhile, a crestfallen Lanlan scuttled over to Xiao Ya with her braided pigtails and broke into a sweet smile as she said, “Xiao Ya, that fella Wang Qiang will no longer bully you from now on. We can go back to…”
Before Lanlan could finish, Xiao Ya seemed to cower in dread and she scooted behind her mother.
At that instance, Lanlan felt as if she was struck by lightning. The brilliant sadness was engraved on her little face as she stiffened up. Her black, beady eyes were clouded over with a misty glow.
Looking at the child’s pitiful appearance, the adults were startled and the air grew thick with tension.
Xiao Ya’s mother chuckled reluctantly, trying to exhort her daughter out. “Hey, Xiao Ya, don’t hide. What’s the matter?” Despite her gentle efforts, Xiao Ya was still too terrified to come forth.
Despondency clouded Lanlan’s face as large teardrops formed at the corners of her eyes and rolled down her chubby cheeks. Weeping, she rubbed at her eyes and bawled, “Xiao Ya… You… Don’t ignore Lanlan…”
The sobbing interrupted Yang Chen’s train of thought. He felt as though a hammer delivered a heavy blow to his soul and a massive boulder had just been dropped onto his heartstrings. Bitter, heart-rending flashbacks started to wash over him like a wave…