Seated in the study area of the Ning residence, Ning Guangyao was reading several documents and signing them as he went.
There was a knock on the door.
“Come in.” Ning Guangyao placed his pen and stationery aside before taking a sip from his cup of tea.
A man in a suit opened the door. He bowed, then signaled to someone behind him. A thin silhouette entered.
He was wearing a set of clean, simple clothes. The young man’s hair was clipped, and his face was cleaned up. He limped into the study.
“Ning… Premier Ning…”
Cripple’s voice shook. He lowered his head carefully, not bold enough to look up at the highest-ranked man in all of China’s government.
Ning Guangyao put down his teacup. “Wen Tao… That is your name, correct?”
Cripple stood stunned for a moment, then whispered, “Yes.”
“I’d sent someone to investigate your background. You didn’t make it into university because you missed it by a point. Not long after, your father died in an accident which coincidentally left you crippled and your mother killed herself by drinking pesticide. With nowhere else to turn to, you resorted to begging on the streets,” he said slowly.
Wen Tao’s eyes reddened. He gulped and said, “You’re right, but… I’ve actually gotten into university.”
“Oh, really? How?”
Cripple looked up for the first time, his face betraying his dark emotions. “I heard it from my teacher. She told me in secret that a slot coincidentally had to be reserved for the son of one of the leaders of the education ministry. That’s why they had my grade lowered. They had to deliberately look for a mark that wasn’t supposed to be deducted. But who was I to compete? I didn’t have money nor power but I wanted to report them… And that corrupt bastard! That corrupt minister sent someone to arrange for my dad’s accident!
“Our family had always been poor. My mom and dad were laborers. Their lives were spent making sure I had the opportunity they didn’t. I’d initially made it into Peking University to make life better for my parents. But because I was only a regular student, I was dispensable in the eyes of the powerful.”
He stood there and spat his grudges that were bottled up for so long. Even the suited man next to the door felt a chill run down his spine.
Ning Guangyao furrowed his brows. “You’re calling one of the government’s men a corrupt bastard, right in front of me. Aren’t you afraid I’d do something?”
Wen Tao clenched his teeth. “Premier Ning, you won’t do anything to me. You would have killed me the other day if you wanted to!”
“Mm? I know you have a huge secret, that’s why I kept you alive,” answered Ning Guangyao.
Wen Tao grinned. “Premier Ning, I’m not very smart. I’ll never understand things the way you do. However, I am smart enough to know that you are interested in the secret I keep. If you really want to know, I’m quite sure that you have ways to force it out of me. The only reason why you wouldn’t do that is that you still care about the years you had with the first lady.”
Ning Guangyao’s eyes narrowed, glaring coldly.
“Also…” Wen Tao gulped, then continued speaking nervously, “I’m just an insignificant bug to you. Killing me wouldn't accomplish much. I’m much more useful to you alive.”
Ning Guangyao knocked his desk gently with his hand. “The college entrance examinations have begun. You’re too late for that. However, it’s not impossible for you to enter Peking University. You may enter on the condition that you do not embarrass us.”
Wen Tao’s eyes brightened with mad joy. He dropped to the ground, kneeling. “Thank you, Premier! Thank you, Premier! I’ll never let you down!”
“I’ll send someone to make arrangements for administration. You will enter as my wife’s distant relative. Before she passed away, she wanted me to take care of you. As for the rest, I'm sure you’re smart enough to think of something,” said Ning Guangyao mildly.
Wen Tao nodded vigorously. “I know what I must do. I’ll never let this secret out.”
Ning Guangyao frowned. “There was no secret to let out in the first place!”
“When you’ve made a little reputation for yourself at Peking University, I’ll give you a few tasks. As for the secret you’re holding on to with your life, you may tell me once you trust me enough not to kill you.” As he spoke, his lips slid into an icy sneer. “Of course, patience… is not my forte.”
Wen Tao froze, nodding silently.
“You may leave.” Ning Guangyao gestured for him to exit.
Wen Tao got up and backed out, feeling like he was on cloud nine.
When the door closed, the suited man guarding the door stepped forward. Confused, he asked, “Master, why don’t you let us beat the cripple up? I hardly believe that he is strong enough to resist us.”
Ning Guangyao picked up his teacup, then sipped another mouthful of tea. “He won’t tell, even if he were to die.”
The man stopped for a moment, then asked uncomfortably, “Master, why would you say that? He’s just some beggar.”
“Hmph.” Ning Guangyao narrowed his eyes at the man. “What do you know? Think about it, how did this beggar who was new to the streets, make a name for himself within the circle of gangsters and beggars in Zhonghai? Why did he continue to take care of that woman, even when no one else wanted to care for her?”
The suited man had a hint of panic. “That would mean…”
“You’re right,” he huffed coldly. “He must have known of her identity. He only pretended not to know. Since the beginning, he’d been gambling with his chances. It was his one chance to enter the higher tiers of society. He’s a slippery one. Death means nothing to a person who has nothing. In just a few days, he’d made that scheming woman trust him, so much so she told him a secret to save his life. A secret she didn’t even want to tell me at her deathbed. It’s obvious this brat isn’t a simple man.
“He may look like a sickly dog to you—a timid, fragile man. But that fool had been observing us. It was all a show. He thought everything was in his control. But how could he trick me, Ning Guangyao? Then again, it looks like he’s scheming abilities have improved after practicing on you idiots.”
“You could give someone all the training and support in the world but yet, they would not become significant people in society. Then there are some people who look weak, insignificant but given the chance, rise up to become influential people. Even if they were shooting for the moon, they’d land among the stars.”
The suited man was dripping in cold sweat now. He no longer dared to look down upon the beggar. Even the way he looked at Ning Guangyao became more courteous. “Then… Master, if he’s such a dangerous man, why are we keeping him alive? He might get a chance, and we’d be raising a tiger in our home.”
“Hmph.” Ning Guangyao looked at him haughtily. “I’ve been unable to accomplish anything significant because my subordinates are filled with fools like you.
“The greatest of kings do not have inexperienced subordinates by his side. I want honed geniuses, like how Liu Bei was bold enough to use Zhu Geliang as his secret weapon. All of you are the bricks that hold the Ning clan up. You don’t need to worry.
[TL note: Liu Bei and Zhe Geliang are from the Three Kingdoms.]
“Fighting a person like him, who is willing to lose everything, would only harm both sides. That is why instead of beating him up to force the secret out of him, we could use his intelligence and scheming abilities to do our bidding. As for the secret he keeps, all will be revealed in good time.”
The suited man nodded, agreeing to what he said. He still looked worried about the future prospects of the clan, however.
Ning Guangyao let out a long sigh. “You… Just do what you’re supposed to do. Leave the thinking to me. You really think the Ning clan could lead among the four dominant clans only because I, Ning Guangyao, am the premier?”
The man stopped, looking at him in confusion. However, Ning Guangyao’s lips curled into a deep sneer and his body grew cold.
Mo Qianni lay in Yang Chen’s arms sleeping blissfully in her room.
Yang Chen didn’t know if he should’ve cried or laughed at the woman in his arms. He smoothened her messy hair and stood up.
When he saw the storm still raging outside, he sighed. He should start making preparations for the future.
Turning, Yang Chen spoke gently to the smiling face at the door. “Why are you standing at the door?”
Unknowingly, the door had been opened. A lady in a purple chiffon blouse and a black sequin short skirt was leaning against it. Her pale, long legs looked more sensual in this angle. The corners of her sexy lips curled up. The delicate sheet of long hair making her look like a very attractive elf in the dim light.