House arrest. Home detention. Never in Zhou Qin's life had she imagined that those terms would one day apply to her. For as long as she could remember, her family name was like an armor, a deterrent against those who wished her harm. Nobody would dare mess with her as long as she was a Zhou. But now, it became increasingly clear that the first chink had formed in the armor she once thought of as impenetrable.
Admittedly, the whole affair felt like a bad dream, one that she desperately wanted to wake up from. But then there was nothing to wake up from. This house detention was real, as real as that electronic ankle bracelet she'd been fitted with after her last interrogation session with Detective Wang. She was now officially a criminal suspect, not of murder, but of perjury and obstruction of justice. The cops clearly thought she was covering up for Li Yundong, which, of course, she was. There was, however, a silver lining. Something told her that Detective Wang wasn't like the rest of his colleagues. Her gut told her that Detective Wang was starting to believe her story about He Shao being struck down by a bolt of lightning from the sky.
Still, what could one man do against the entire police force?
Detective Wang might be different from the rest, but he was still just a homicide detective. The police commissioner was the one who had the final say regarding what to do with her.
Hence the house arrest.
Her father had been furious and extremely disappointed in her. Not that his reaction surprised her. As far as she could tell, this was just another day in the Zhou household. After all, when had her father ever looked at her with anything other than disappointment in his eyes? When had the great Zhou Keqiang cared about her well-being? To him, she was just a tool, a means to some elusive goal that had driven him to the point of madness. Even when he was disappointed in her, it wasn't because he cared; it was only because he thought she had done something to desecrate the name of the Zhou family.
So much for familial ties.
Over the past few weeks, Zhou Qin had a lot of time to think things over. And during those long, sleepless hours of self-reflection and soul-searching, Zhou Qin found herself constantly returning to one simple question: Why?
Why was she doing this to herself? Why was she putting everything on the line for Li Yundong, a man who clearly didn't return her feelings? She kept telling herself that she was doing this because of hormones, because she was infatuated and blinded by her feelings for Li Yundong. But deep down, she knew that wasn't the case at all.
The fact was that she had changed. Ever since she'd gotten to know the real Li Yundong, her entire worldview had changed. Her friendship with Li Yundong had made her question everything she thought she knew about life. And as a result, she had begun to see that there really are things in life worth more than just status and money, things that are meaningful, things that are worth protecting.
While her father believed in wealth and status, Li Yundong believed in people. He valued a person's inherent goodness more than their wealth and status. Most people in Zhou Qin's circle picked friends and allies based on material things. Li Yundong picked his friends based on their internal qualities.
And then there was Su Chan.
God. That girl was something else entirely. The nature of Su Chan's character was something that baffled Zhou Qin to no end. It was something that she couldn't for the life of her fathom. For one, her character was riddled with contradictions: meek and compliant, yet fiercely assertive and protective when it came to the things or people she cared about; simple-minded, yet capable of astoundingly complex behaviors and thought processes; blessed with a disproportionately huge appetite, yet possessing a figure that most women would die for.
But of course, the one aspect about Su Chan's character that baffled Zhou Qin the most was her childlike innocence.
That girl was innocent to point of hilarity, not to mention completely ignorant to the ways of the world. And yet, despite her innocence, that girl also possessed far greater wisdom and foresight than any woman Zhou Qin had ever known. Su Chan had chosen Li Yundong from the very start. When everyone—sadly, even Zhou Qin herself—saw Li Yundong as just another loser, Su Chan saw a great man hidden behind his mediocre exterior. For someone so innocent, Su Chan had such great insights into the human character. Perhaps her innocence was precisely the thing that had allowed her to see past the shallow nonsense and focus on the things that truly matter.
Zhou Qin would rather die than admit this to anyone, but that emotional exchange between Li Yundong and Su Chan shortly after He Shao was struck to death had moved Zhou Qin to tears. It was clear to Zhou Qin then that Li Yundong and Su Chan loved each other deeply. In fact, their love for each other ran so deep that either one of them would die for the other.
How a love that pure could exist in this world was beyond Zhou Qin.
Regardless, the pure love between Li Yundong and Su Chan made Zhou Qin realize one thing: it is people, not wealth, that brings true happiness.
You could have all the wealth and status in the world, yet be surrounded by people who would backstab you any chance they get. Indeed, how could happiness stem from such a life, where you're constantly living in fear because you're surrounded by people who would bring destruction upon you the moment you let your guard down, who wouldn't hesitate to throw you under the bus to save their own skin? How could anyone be happy by living amongst sharks and blood-thirsty wolves? Zhou Qin had seen such a life. No. She hadn't just seen it. She had experienced it. Because that was exactly the kind of life that her father had chosen for her.
On the other hand, you could lead a simple life but be surrounded by people who cherish you for who you are, not how deep your pocket is or how your last name is spelled. By inviting her to his home, Li Yundong had given Zhou Qin a glimpse of what a simple, yet meaningful life looks like.
Indeed, a simple, home-cooked meal had opened Zhou Qin's eyes to so many things and allowed her to finally understand the meaning of true happiness.
After she came to that realization, Zhou Qin had spent quite a while wondering if she would ever experience such happiness. It wasn't until three weeks ago that she realized something else: she'd already experienced such happiness.
Oh yes, she did, back at Li Yundong's apartment, where she had been an eager participant of la casa de Yundong's daily Food War. God. What a meal that had been. Zhou Qin had laughed until her cheeks hurt every time Su Chan stuck her tongue out at Zhou Qin after she had beaten Zhou Qin to a piece of duck meat. And then when it was the other way round, when Zhou Qin had beaten Su Chan to a piece, the poor girl would showcase her "chipmunk" pouches in an entirely different capacity—in the form of a huge, sulky pout. Zhou Qin had laughed until her stomach cramped.
That kind of happiness was something her father would never understand. He wouldn't understand because he never really had people he cared deeply about.
Zhou Keqiang cared about no one.
Not even his own daughter.
Zhou Qin wouldn't allow herself to go down that path. She didn't want that kind of life. She'd never wanted it in the first place. Before, she had let herself be controlled because she had no idea what happiness truly meant. She hadn't seen the other side, so to speak. Back then, her life consisted of nothing other than meaningless parties and petty political maneuvers to satisfy her father's delusions of grandeur. Not to mention countless matchmaking attempts to find the most "beneficial" suitor for her. She had nothing to look forward to, nothing worth fight for.
But things were different now.
Now, Zhou Qin had found people that she actually cared about. She had friends. Real friends, not the kind with agendas. Granted, she didn't have a lot of true friends yet. As far as she could tell, right now she only had two: Su Chan and Li Yundong.
Well, she supposed having two friends was better than having none. Especially when those friends actually gave a damn about her beyond her status.
Although Li Yundong's feelings for her were merely platonic, Zhou Qin knew that he cared about her as a friend.
And Su Chan…
At first, Zhou Qin was jealous of Su Chan, because Su Chan had something Zhou Qin could never have—Li Yundong's heart.
But as they got to know each other better, Zhou Qin had eventually come to see Su Chan as the little sister she never had. Good Lord. That girl was just impossible to hate. Literally impossible. And even though Su Chan had never overtly stated it, Zhou Qin could tell that Su Chan cared about her too. Zhou Qin would never forget the time when Su Chan had risked her own life to save her during their unfortunate encounter with Lin Youfa outside the campus gates. Su Chan had dove in front of Zhou Qin and then pulled her away from a shockwave powerful enough to blast a limousine several feet away. Su Chan could've left Zhou Qin for death and gone straight to Li Yundong, but she didn't. She came for her instead. Su Chan had protected her.
And now it was Zhou Qin's turn to protect them both.
Detective Wang had been dropping hints here and there about what the commissioner was up to. Although subtle, the hints were still clear enough for Zhou Qin to get the message—she had a feeling that Detective Wang was trying to help her. The commissioner, and most likely the He family, wanted to pin He Shao's death on Li Yundong. And if Li Yundong was convicted, Su Chan would no doubt be devastated.
To protect them both. That was the main reason Zhou Qin had refused to give the commissioner what he wanted.
Sometimes, Zhou Qin wanted to laugh at herself for even considering it. Li Yundong could dodge bullets. And Su Chan could fly. Yes. The girl could fly. To think that either of them would need her protection was just ridiculous. But still, Zhou Qin wanted to do something to help her friends. Admittedly, a small part of her was doing this because she didn't want to give the He family the final victory. She didn't want He Shao to have the last laugh, even though it would be done from hell. But mostly, it was because she didn't want Li Yundong and Su Chan to get into further trouble with the law.
Like she said, she wanted to help her friends.
She hadn't done much in that regard though.
So far, all she did was omit a few details from the story she had—repeatedly—told the cops. Those details were the ones that would incriminate Li Yundong. But since there weren't any physical evidence to prove that Li Yundong had actually killed He Shao, things would soon blow over as long as she—
Zhou Qin froze. The noise came from downstairs. Someone was inside the house.
Is it father? Has he returned?
But no. It couldn't be. Her father only returned during the weekends.
Zhou Qin scrambled out of bed and ran to her desk. She pulled out the top drawer and removed the Taser she'd kept there for emergency.
After that, she ran to door of her bedroom and locked it. She then pressed her ear against the door and listened. For ten minutes, she stayed in that position, listening to any sounds outside.
She didn't hear anything out of the ordinary.
Maybe she was just tired. She hadn't been sleeping well lately.
She sighed and pushed away from the door.
On the way towards the bed, she turned off the lights in her bedroom. Leaving the lights on would just make it easier for the intruder—if there was any—to find her.
I should call the security staff.
Zhou Qin made a beeline towards the nightstand where the PBX phone system sat. She lowered the Taser onto the nightstand, then reached for the phone receiver.
This time, the noise came from the window behind her.
Zhou Qin gasped and turned around, dropping the phone receiver in the process.
She reached for the Taser on the night stand, but it was too late. A strong, gloved hand clamped over her mouth. The next thing she knew, she was being dragged away from the nightstand, away from the Taser.