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A Life for a Life is Even

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Zhan Junbai was a cruel man. Chen Yuzhi was still reeling from finding out that not only was Keying alive but also in his possession. At Executive Zhan’s demand, he was waiting in the dock for Jiang Yuelou who would have seen the signal he left in the newspaper, thanks to Zhong Yiren’s help. 

He discreetly committed to memory where Junbai and his men where staying as he shifted in place nervously, the gun heavy in his pocket. Quietly, he looked down at the water - he could only hope this plan worked, for both his and Yuelou's sakes.
Yuzhi Jiang Yuelou slowly approached him, looking around for anyone who could see them out in the open. The young doctor turned around once he realized Yuelou had arrived. 

"...Are you okay?"
"Are you okay?" they'd both asked.

There was a beat of silence until Jiang Yuelou guiltily lowered his glance. "I'm sorry..." 
"Are you apologizing..." Chen Yuzhi pointed to his heart "...because of this?" he asked. The other man looked at him in the eye for a while before he nodded.
When next he spoke, his voice was low - "Zhan Junbai is watching very closely. I can't stay here for long".
"Chu Ran... she went to see Commissioner Bai, talked about San Ye." Chen Yuzhi said. Yuelou seemed to expect him to continue, however after seeing he wasn't saying anything else he looked at him, a hint of confusion in the crease of his brow. "Is that all you had to say?" At which, Yuzhi turned his gaze to the ground and answered affirmatively. Jiang Yuelou sensed something was wrong.
"You're hiding something from me." he stated. Yuzhi immediately met his eyes and denied it but he'd failed to convince the man in front of him. Former Chief Jiang stepped slowly closer, not once looking away.
"Is there anything we can't say between us?" he looked upset but didn't raise his voice. Yuzhi kept his eyes on Yuelou's but couldn't bring himself to talk. Yuelou continued, "No matter what happens, we stay together." Yuzhi felt his lips tug in a smile but the grief in his heart didn't let it reach his now red-rimmed eyes. He laughed humourlessly before he quoted "I hate that I am not like the moon high up the pavilion on the river... Only staying with you." He sighed and tried to blink away the tears pooling in his eyes before adding, "Yuelou... It seems we still have to go our separate ways." with a sad smile on his lips.

Yuelou grew worried, gripping his hand on Yuzhi's upper arm. "What exactly happened?"
"Zhan Junbai knows everything." Yuzhi's expression didn't change and Yuelou nodded. "He's nearby, isn't he?" The doctor looked downwards again.
"He caught Keying." he said through gritted teeth. Yuelou's expression was a mix of relief and grief as he next spoke. "Keying is still alive." Yuzhi nodded. 
"And so... he asked you to kill me." Yuzhi didn't deny it, instead reaching for the hand Yuelou kept on his shoulder and pushing it away as he talked. "It seems like one of us must die today..." he spoke very softly now, his doe-like eyes on Yuelou's expression mirrored his for a second as they stared at each other.
Jiang Yuelou finally felt the weight of the words the man had just said and stepped back hesitantly. "Let me think about this... Let me think about it."
Yuzhi grinned and shook his head, "You don't have to think about it. I already did." Yuelou stared at him unsure of what he meant. 
"Keying... I'm leaving her in your care." he said, quickly aiming the gun to the side of his head.
Yuelou's response was quick, as expected of a policeman, reaching to grab Yuzhi's wrist effectively stopping him.
Chen Yuzhi struggled, considering his plan failed it'd be likely that Zhan Junbai would take action. He turned them around so as to cover Yuelou's form from Junbai's men.

In the distance, Executive Zhan gave the signal to his sniper who shot at them without delay.

A loud gunshot was heard, Yuzhi gasped as the air was forced out of his lungs and he felt the searing pain in his back. He smiled knowing his guess was correct, while Jiang Yuelou looked at him in horror when he felt him slipping, he couldn't keep them both standing anymore. He held him close, propping Yuzhi up against his embrace and called his name repeatedly.
"Chen Yuzhi..." he felt his stomach drop at the wetness seeping through Yuzhi's clothed back. Yuelou looked around trying to spot the shooter when Yuzhi gasped. "Yuzhi-" he was interrupted.
"Yuelou... we don't have long." he felt so limp in his arms, it wasn't right. Yuzhi reached in his pocket, pulling out the letter Junbai had sent before and handing it to him shakily. "They're keeping Keying in the location written there... Chu Ran... Chu Ran is still at her house, you have to go find her. You... You need to leave." It hurt like hell, but if plan A failed he'd need a plan B, and plan B depended entirely on Yuelou making it out of there alive. Jiang Yuelou took the letter in a daze.
"I'm sorry... If only I hadn't called you out here, you..." Yuelou cut him off. "Chen Yuzhi, if anything happens to you how am I supposed to forgive myself later?"
"It's doesn't matter" it was getting harder for him to breathe but he kept going, "...you would have done the same thing for me." The smile from earlier had yet to leave his face as he struggled. Steps grew closer as Zhan Junbai's people drew closer. Yuzhi gently pet Yuelou's face, "Listen carefully.. You need to leave now or else this will have been in vain." he said urgently as he guided Yuelou to look at the water.
Yuelou blinked and rasped a breath in response, following Yuzhi's eyes to the shore end. "Yuzhi-" the man let go of his partner, pushing him towards his only escape from Junbai's men. "Go! NOW!" 
"You... You hold on, okay? I'll come back for you! YOU JUST HOLD ON!" Yuelou's heart sank as he ran towards the water, diving away from view.

"FIND HIM!" Zhan's men came running at their boss's words, aimlessly shooting into the water. "If he's alive, I want to see him; If he's dead, I want to see the corpse!" he barked the orders.
He narrowed his eyes looking back at were Yuzhi had curled to his side and made his way over with long strides. He grabbed him by his coat's lapel and they came face to face. "What did you tell him?" he gritted out. "You've been shot again, but I bet losing him will be more painful." he added mockingly.
Yuzhi scoffed breathlessly at him, "You must be... very happy seeing us like this, hm?" Zhan Junbai shook him once. "What did you say to him before he jumped in the river." he demanded.
"A life for a life is even." Junbai cut in - "And?"
Chen Yuzhi stared at him defiantly. "Executive Zhan... Do you not trust me or do you just want to make it worse?" Yuzhi had been crying since earlier but, if looks could kill, his teary eyes would leave Junbai dead on the spot. As such, he took a second to react. He pulled out his gun and pointed it at the man before speaking.
"You must never want to see Keying safe again." Yuzhi glared daggers at him.
"Are... Are you done, now?" he was growing weaker from the blood loss but adrenaline started kicking in at this man's prodding.
"WHAT DID YOU TELL HIM!" Zhan Junbai shook with anger.

Yuzhi spit out a mouthful of blood but never turned away from the traitor in front of him. "Does it anger you? Are you scared that he'll come back? Tell me... H-how does it feel to not be in control anymore? Hm?" He spit the words like venom at him. "Very well, then... suffer. My love for Jiang Yuelou is beyond... anything your petty, lonely small-minded self can imagine..." He coughed before shakily grabbing the muzzle of Zhan Junbai's gun and angling it towards his own forehead and holding it there.
"S-shoot. Zhan Junbai... You've been defeated. You cannot kill me in a way that matters. I'll never... betray Jiang Yuelou." The spiteful bite of Yuzhi's usually soothing soft voice seemed to strike a chord with Zhan Junbai as he blinked, eyes red with anger. He cocks his gun.
"I'M NOT FUCKING SCARED OF YOU!" he yelled, however, he was unable to shoot Yuzhi - he was, after all, still an important piece as long as Jiang Yuelou lived. In a fit of rage, he grabbed Yuzhi's lapel with both hands now, throwing him off the dock. He adjusted the cuffs of his sleeves after putting his gun down, reaching instead for his tie knot as if to loosen it.
"Let's see how far your love takes you in the river then." he voiced out, breefly scanning the water before guiding the troops away.

 

Yuzhi lost conscience after fighting the current for a while. This river was well known for its strong pull which left Yuzhi no room for struggling in his current state.
 I hope Yuelou made it out alright... I wonder if Keying and him will forgive me... he thought before he blacked out again. 

 

Far ahead, Jiang Yuelou had managed to pull himself off the waters and run to a telephone box, dialing Chu Ran's office number in record time. He told her the address Yuzhi had given him and what had just happened at the dock. She'd been in distress at how they could know he was alive and how dangerous it was since he'd just healed from the previous incident at the wonton stall.
After arranging for Chen Keying to be rescued he'd told her to stay home and ran along the street hoping for news on Yuzhi.

In a stroke of luck, he'd managed to corner one of Sun Heying's henchmen who'd been acting as his guard the passing days and knocked him out. He took his gun, dragged him out to an abandoned house nearby and tied him up, immobilizing him before slapping his face twice and calling out.
"Yah, I didn't hit you that hard. Wake up already!" he shoved him. That did the trick, the man stirring before becoming alert and struggling. "Let me go!-" Jiang Yuelou raised and kicked his chest, the chair dragging loudly along the floor boards with the impact. "Shut up, I ask the questions. What happened at the dock after I jumped?" he questioned the guard who bit his lips in an effort to stay quiet. Yuelou took the gun's handle and slammed on the man's hand hard, making him cry out. "Feel like answering now? Say it." he warned.
The man grunted, "Aww, thinking of your boyfriend, huh? Too bad. He was thrown into the water and off the shore end." he sneered at him. Jiang Yuelou felt his heart sink at the information, gaping at the floor as he feared the worst. He aimed the gun at the man and shot before running towards the river's estuary in the hopes of finding Yuzhi's body. He had to be alive, he had to .

He looked up and down the river mouth for any sign of Yuzhi or at worst his corpse but found nothing. He moved further and further from JingCheng before reaching what he was looking for.
A figure resting face down on the riverbed, suit clinging wetly to his blood-dirtied back unmoving. Jiang Yuelou's eyes widened.
"YUZHI!" he screamed. Yuelou ran faster than ever tripping to a halt next to his partner's body, carefully but steadily turning him around as he kneeled down to check on him. "Yuzhi... Yuzhi!" He shook him a bit but quickly took notice of his blue lips and pale complexion and spun around to look for help. He had gently place his index finger under Yuzhi's nose, registering he was still breathing filled him with purpose and he picked the young doctor up rushing for shelter.

Luckily for them, Yuelou had passed a small fishermen village which seemed far enough that Zhan Junbai's men wouldn't come look for them. An old couple had just come to their door once they heard Chief Jiang's shouts for help. They'd been fearful as they saw him barreling towards them but quickly got over it when Yuelou's commanding voice had explained that his closest family was hurt. The man quickly let go of his equipment and helped the policeman bring Yuzhi inside as the woman left for the supplies her husband asked.
"You're lucky I was a soldier or I wouldn't know how to help...!" he said worriedly looking at the wounded man. "Help me undress him." Yuelou obliged, cautiously removing Yuzhi's outer coat, then his vest, tie and shirt. He unbuttoned the dress shirt swiftly before completely pulling them off his shoulders. Pulling his own sleeves back, his movement came to a halt as he looked at Yuzhi's back and a knot surged in his throat. He'd failed to protect him again. Yuelou steeled himself before proceeding with the older man's instructions.

 

Chen Yuzhi was one resilient man. Though he had yet to come to, he was finally showing a bit more colour, his lips now a muted red and his fingertips no longer blue.

While he waited for his partner to wake up, Yuelou used the only phone box in the village centre to contact Chu Ran, giving and asking for news.
Keying had been taken back to her apartment and was now under her and Yiren's care. In spite of the good news, Chu Ran's voice wasn't cheerful at all as she kept talking. "Yuelou... We need to talk about how they knew Yuzhi was alive." Her tone was pressing. "Maybe they had a spy-" he started.
"Yuelou, the only people who knew were you, Yiren, Commissioner Bai and I." she wasn't speaking too loud but her voice was steady. "Yiren is ruled out since she helped him post the ad on the newspaper. You didn't tell anyone and neither did I."
Yuelou scrambled for words. If it were Commissioner Bai's fault, that would mean he had defected to Zhan Junbai's side - this was something Jiang Yuelou couldn't fathom ever happening.
"I'll... I'll look into it when Yuzhi wakes up." the words were spoken just above a whisper. He knew there was no way any of the other people had told anyone else and Commissioner Bai had reportedly been acting strange when Chu Ran went to warn him of San Ye.
Still, to be betrayed by the man he'd considered a father was a heavy blow to Jiang Yuelou. Then it would really mean he'd miscalculated and put himself and Yuzhi right into San Ye's hands. He slammed his hand into the wall of the phone box before listening on. "What... What will you do if it was really Commissioner Bai...?" her voice was uncertain, clearly testing the waters for his reaction. He sighed before responding, "I don't know... I'll have to think about it when I see him..."
There not being a lot more to talk about, Chu Ran informed him on the motions in JingCheng as Yuelou let her know what he'd learned while undercover. After concocting a plan for the New Years Eve, they hung up and Yuelou headed back to the old couple's home.

The next day, Yuzhi had finally woken up to Jiang Yuelou asleep holding his hand in both of his. He smiled fondly running his other hand through the man's hair, stirring him from his rest. 
Yuelou blinked blearily before focusing on the man.
"Yuzhi!" He'd straightened up right away bringing his other hand to push Yuzhi's bangs away from his forehead resting his own against it. "You're awake." He kept looking at a now blushing Yuzhi who was confused by, but not opposed to, the turn of events. Jiang Yuelou slightly pulled back and went back to checking him. "How do you feel? Are you thirsty?" he rambled as he fixed him a glass of water by the bedside table. Chen Yuzhi looked on at a scrambling and instead of speaking and ruining his fun, he smiled and gripped Yuelou's hand back. The other stopped, finally looking - really looking - at Yuzhi who smiled softly at him. His heart skipped a beat as Yuelou finally sat back down and rested his hand on the back of his neck as was his habit.
"Hey..." he said, pausing as both of them chuckled at his crappy attempt. "You made it, Yuelou..." The man looked at him affectionately before frowning and pulling at Yuzhi's cheek.
"You idiot. Your plan sucks." he looked to the side for a while but couldn't tear his gaze from the young man for long. Said man huffed with a grin "It's better than having you collapse in my place..." They both laughed quietly before Yuzhi started coughing. Yuelou didn't take long handing him the glass of water, "It's alright, drink up." He helped Yuzhi sit up in bed and took the glass after he'd drunk a bit, rubbing soothing circles on his upper back.
"Where are we, Yuelou?"

With that, Yuelou proceeded to tell Yuzhi everything that had happened since the dock. Chu Ran and Yiren taking care of Keying, him bringing Yuzhi to a village away from JingCheng and Chu Ran's plan to marry Zhan Junbai on New Years Eve, along with Bai Jinbo's suspected treason.
"That makes sense... The letter I gave you had a flower drawn by Keying on the corner. That's how I knew she had to be alive but I have no clue who delivered it. Only Commissioner Bai, Yiren, -"
"- Chu Ran and I knew you were there and alive. Yeah..." he finished for him. Yuelou rested his hand on Yuzhi's shoulder rubbing it with his thumb softly, "As soon as you get better we need to return to JingCheng, any moment we're away is another point for Zhan Junbai." Yuzhi nodded firmly.
"I understand. As soon as we can, then." he said seriously. Just then, the old fisherman came in overjoyed to see the young man sitting up in bed looking a lot more lively. "If I hadn't been in the army... I'll tell you! You were lucky, young man." he said proudly. "Aiyo, I'll ask my wife to make you something, I'll be right back."
As the man walked off, the younger pair on the bed let out a breathy laugh as they turned their soft gaze back on each other. Yuzhi's heart fluttered in his chest as Jiang Yuelou pulled him in for a hug, one arm around his waist the other on his neck guiding him to rest his head on his chest. Yuelou sighed in relief when, after the surprise wore off, Chen Yuzhi's own arms wrapped around him hesitantly and drew them closer. Yuzhi finally let go of his worries, sobbing into his partner's warm embrace as Yuelou let his own tears fall, the relief that his significant other was alright evident in his expression. He sniffed before pressing a small kiss to the crown of his head, his arms still comfortably wound around Yuzhi's frame.


They both sighed silently slowly pulling apart from each other before Yuelou helped Yuzhi rest back into the bed. "You rest. I'll wake you up when the food is done, alright?" he said as he tucked Yuzhi into the covers. Yuzhi felt exhausted, probably because he'd still have to recover, fighting the sleepiness of his heavy eyelids to talk to Yuelou just a bit longer. "I'm fine... we can talk..." he murmured as he heard rustling beside him. Jiang Yuelou had settled back by his side holding his hand, rubbing at his knuckles softly with his thumb. "It's okay. Just sleep for now." he spoke with a soft tone he only used for his partner, his other hand coming to pet the side of his hair gently.
At the sudden comfort, Yuzhi was unable to fight the fatigue any longer letting his eyes close as his breath steadied.

 

The worst part would be planning to expose Zhan Junbai however, right now, all that crossed Yuzhi's mind was Yuelou's soft voice and gentle touches against his skin.