Liu Qingge is welcomed into the building with the muffled sounds of Shen Qingqiu shouting. A harassed looking underling bows, offering strained apologies and offering to bring breakfast up to his office soon.
It isn’t the first time that Shen Qingqiu has thrown a fit that has shaken the Cang Qiong mansion to its foundation and it likely won’t be the last. No matter how soundproof Yue Qingyuan tries to make every room in the house, Shen Qingqiu’s voice carries.
For a moment, Liu Qingge entertains the idea of tendering his resignation. When he reaches his office, all that will be waiting for him are piles of paperwork and an endless revolving door of men making their reports for their day. No matter how loyal he is to Cang Qiong, he feels his grip on his sanity bleed out through his ears with every tick of the clock as he is stuck behind a desk. He has done enough that he should be able to retire, surely? Weathering the continued existence of Shen Qingqiu is far and beyond his job description.
Trading in a desk for freelance work is a daydream that helps Liu Qingge pass the tedium of his current position more often than he’d like to admit. Enough of his men have looked terrified during their daily reports as he silently sharpened Cheng Luan for word to spread that Cang Qiong’s head enforcer likes to threaten his underperforming underlings with the sword. Liu Mingyan had burst into laughter when the rumor had finally reached her.
It keeps his men on his toes, so he lets it be. (If he imagines throwing himself out the nearest window, Cheng Luan in hand, and making a break for freedom, far, far away from paperwork and the endless droning of reports, no one but Liu Mingyan needs to know this. Everyone is allowed to dream.)
Yue Qingyuan, as ill-suited to the mafia life as any leader can be, would likely let him leave with minimal fuss and no demands for recompense. If anything, Liu Qingge suspects Yue Qingyuan may actually send him off with a farewell party.
Everyone knows how often Liu Qingge’s the trigger of one of Shen Qingqiu’s infamous temper tantrums behind closed doors. As excellent as Liu Qingge is at his job, Yue Qingyuan would be relieved to have Shen Qingqiu’s Most Hated Enemy #2 out of the way.
After all, even the boss’s husband would have a difficult time throwing out one of Cang Qiong’s inner circle without good reason. It may have been easy to get rid of Luo Binghe, who had no reputation, power, or influence to his name, but the Liu Clan has a long and illustrious history, influence, power, and more money than it knows what to do with. Getting on the clan’s bad side would cause Cang Qiong more headache than Shen Qingqiu in all his righteous fury can.
Shen Qingqiu’s voice ratchets up another dozen decibels. Liu Qingge thinks he can make out a few of the words. He signs a few more documents, checks the clock, and considers taking a break before the first of his men reports.
Tea with Shen Yuan in the garden sounds appealing.
He straightens his hair, smooths any wrinkles out of his waistcoat and resists licking his lips nervously. Maybe he should drop by the bathroom before visiting Shen Yuan’s office, make sure he is presentable.
Don’t be stupid , he tells himself, even as he feels himself flushing.
Five years working with the man and he still has all the dignity of a three year old when it comes to Shen Yuan.
Shen Qingqiu’s voice continues to get louder.
He’s nearly at the door when it is thrown open by Shen Qingqiu who proceeds to brush him aside. Yue Qingyuan sweeps in after his husband, shooting Liu Qingge a pitying look as he politely shuts the door behind him.
If only he hadn’t taken the half-second to fix his hair, he despairs. He could’ve been long gone before Shen Qingqiu decided to descend like a plague of locusts.
“Find him!” Shen Qingiu roars as he paces back and forth in Liu Qingge’s office, hair in disarray and face surprisingly pale.
“Who?” Liu Qingge grunts as he reluctantly returns to his seat.
“Shen Yuan!” Shen Qingiu slams his hand down on Liu Qingge’s desk, sending papers flying. The monitor shakes ominously, threatening to fall. Liu Qingge eyes the splintered surface and feels his own rage building.
Until the name sinks in.
He can feel the blood drain from his face as well. He turns to Yue Qingyuan who looks uncharacteristically strained.
“Explain,” he demands.
In between the shouting and Cheng Luan being threateningly brandished against an inconsolable and raging Shen Qingqiu, Liu Qingge has understood three things:
1. Shen Yuan has gone missing. He is not answering his phone. The app Shen Qingqiu had secretly installed on his phone isn’t working. He cannot be located.
2. Shen Yuan was last seen the night before, wishing his brother good night before retreating to his quarters.
3. Shen Qingqiu is convinced Luo Binghe has him.
Liu Qingge hates agreeing with Shen Qingqiu about anything. They once got into an argument over the weather because he couldn’t bring himself to agree with the other man.
But Liu Qingge can’t help but agree that if Shen Yuan has gone missing, the prime suspect is his ex-disciple Luo Binghe.
It’s no secret how much Luo Binghe desires his old teacher.
Which is why Liu Qingge wastes no time in delegating his duties to Yang Yixuan and marching over to Huan Hua’s estate and demanding a meeting with Luo Binghe.
He had told Yue Qingyuan not to worry, had explained that it would just be an exploratory meeting. It had been clear Yue Qingyuan hadn’t believed him, but Liu Qingge doesn’t feel too guilty about breaking into Huan Hua and raiding the estate.
If Luo Binghe has Shen Yuan, he’d keep him close. Shen Yuan will definitely be on the premises.
If Shen Yuan isn’t there, then that’s one suspect off the list. It isn’t his job to play detective, anyways. If either Yue Qingyuan or Shen Qingqiu had expected subterfuge or delicacy in handling the situation, they shouldn’t have turned to him, the head of Cang Qiong’s hitmen. They could have turned to Qing Qi and her hand picked spies or even sent some of Shen Yuan’s own grifters to put out feelers and gather information.
One does not take out a hammer when precision work is necessary.
If anyone is at fault, it’s Shen Qingqiu’s fault for demanding Liu Qingge to find his brother.
(Liu Qingge ignores the Liu Mingyan in his head that giggles at his flimsy excuses. He’s absolutely not as emotionally compromised as Shen Qingqiu is. He’s making perfectly sound decisions. What else had they expected a trained assassin to do? He can’t smile and make small talk, tricking a target into exposing sensitive information like Shen Yuan does. What he can do is kill a man in seventeen different ways with his bare hands while blindfolded and shoot moving target with pinpoint accuracy at over six hundred meters.
His only skills are beating people for information and killing people for information. He’s just playing to his strengths.)
He tosses one terrified looking Huan Hua thug out a window and points Cheng Luan at another before taking a deep breath and hollering.
“LUO BINGHE. COME OUT!”
He waits one second, then two. After the third, he angrily incapacitates the terrified flunky hiding behind a potted plant and takes the stairs up.
Wading through the endless waves of Huan Hua trash that come crawling out like cockroaches, Liu Qingge does his best to avoid permanently injuring or killing any of them. There’s no reason to start a war if Shen Yuan isn’t here. (But he is; he definitely is.)
After half an hour of crushing every person who even tries to stop him, Liu Qingge makes it to a heavy set of doors. Luo Binghe’s office.
The man in question sits behind his gleaming rosewood desk, Sha Hualing perched on the end of it, twirling her hair. Luo Binghe smiles thinly at Liu Qingge. “To what do I owe this pleasure?” he asks lightly. “I never expected the great War God of Cang Qiong to visit Huan Hua.”
Liu Qingge twitches.
“Return Shen Yuan,” he commands, Cheng Luan still pointed at Luo Binghe.
Luo Binghe’s smile gets sharper, “If Shizun has had enough of Cang Qiong and wishes to be with his dearest disciple, I see why I should send him back.”
“No reason?” Liu Qingge resists stabbing the smug bastard immediately. “Is death not enough motivation?”
“Death?” Luo Binghe laughs lowly, “I’m not the one courting it.”
Sha Hualing rolls her eyes, rising from the desk with smooth grace. “I’ll go check on our...products,” she says as she leaves, shooting Luo Binghe a look that speaks thousands of words, all of them which make Liu Qingge turn crimson.
“Shameless!” He bites out, head turning from Sha Hualing’s retreating back to Luo Binghe, before swiveling right back. “Shameless!” He repeats, face hotter than it should be.
Luo Binghe retrieves Xin Mo from its place of honor on the wall even as he taunts Liu Qingge, “Cheng Luan, really? Is Cang Qiong so old fashioned that even its War God brings outdated weaponry to battle?”
“As if the peashooters your men had were of any use,” Liu Qingge snorts. No gun, no matter how powerful it is, is dead weight in the hands of the incompetent. “You know as well as I do how useful good steel can be,” he continues as Luo Binghe draws Xin Mo.
There’s a heartbeat as they both size each other up. Liu Qingge readjusts his stance, eyes Luo Binghe’s shifting his grip on Xin Mo. They’re about to strike, when the doors slam open.
“BOSS! Shen Yuan has been kidnapped!”
Liu Qingge’s murderous rage shifts.
Shang Qinghua stands in the doorway to Luo Binghe’s office, eyes wide. He trembles. “L-L-Liu Qingge?” He stammers.
“BOSS?” Liu Qingge repeats, pointing Cheng Luan at the suddenly stiff Luo Binghe. “LUO BINGHE?”
If it were possible, Shang Qinghua would probably melt through the floor.
“Kidnapped?” Luo Binghe repeats, voice dangerously low. Shang Qinghua shivers more. He looks on the verge of tears. “Explain. Now.”