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    "No," Fu Luoyin whispered insistently. "I won't agree, Lin Shuicheng. I've already told my mother that I'll bring you home for a visit by the end of the year. You can't—"

    Whatever else he said, Lin Shuicheng didn't catch it.

    Still covering his ears, Fu Luoyin pressed him firmly against the wall and lowered his head to rest it on Shuicheng's shoulder.

    Lin Shuicheng asked, "Should I take you back to your room? You've had too much to drink. You didn't have to help me fend off those drinks today."

    His alcohol tolerance was neither good nor bad.

    Back when he first started the project two or three years ago, he was still an inexperienced student who would be coerced into drinking without knowing how to refuse. Now, he had matured significantly and knew how to assert himself in such social situations.

    Fu Luoyin leaned entirely onto him, forcing Lin Shuicheng to wrap his arms around his shoulders and back. He was much taller, so as people passed by, they couldn't help but glance over, assuming something intimate was happening. However, Fu Luoyin simply nestled his head gently against Shuicheng's neck.

    After a moment, he mumbled, still incoherent, "Don't listen. I disagree."

    With Fu Luoyin's hands clasped tightly over his ears, Lin Shuicheng felt a slight ache. He reached up to remove Fu's hands, gently tugging at him. Fu Luoyin snapped back to reality, staring blankly at his fingers – entwined with his own, slender and soft.

    Their fingertips brushed against each other, their breath warm.

    In that instant, Lin Shuicheng realized that this gesture might carry a hint of intimacy.

    Fu Luoyin's eyes glimmered at the sight of Lin Shuicheng, like an ancient well concealing a hidden river, suddenly sparkling with numerous stars.

    Shuicheng attempted to take a step back, but there was nowhere to retreat; the wall was right behind him. Fu Luoyin then leaned in closer—

    Shuicheng anticipated a kiss, but instead, Fu Luoyin merely gazed at him intently, as if admiring a beloved treasure. A hint of a smile appeared in his eyes, filled with reverence, joy, and caution.

    He then gently lowered his head and kissed Shuicheng's forehead.

    "Little kitten," he murmured.

    Lin Shuicheng tried to push him away, his voice cool and detached. "Back to the room."

    Fu Luoyin obediently followed his instructions, though he insisted on carrying him, his fingers clasped tightly around Shuicheng's. The normally composed and steady man had transformed into a child in this moment.

    Unaware of where Fu Luoyin lived, Shuicheng led him to his own room, struggling to help him onto the bed.

    As Fu Luoyin reached out to pull him into bed, Shuicheng struggled to cover him with a blanket. While removing Fu Luoyin's coat, a small pill box tumbled out, revealing two missing pills inside.

    Lin Shuicheng lowered his head to examine the medicine names, recalling Fu Luoyin's relentless sneezing fits earlier that day. He fell into a moment of silence.

    He adjusted the air conditioning to a warmer temperature, then went over to the desk to extract the rose from the eternal flower arrangement. Carefully, he placed it in an empty document pouch.

    For the remaining cherry blossom eternal flowers, he took them out one by one, arranging their stems neatly in his hand. Fu Luoyin's approach to flower arranging had been hasty and forceful, causing the fake stems at the bottom to be broken and tangled. Lin Shuicheng separated the flowers into three bunches: one in the vase, another on the table wrapped in a napkin, and the last, with severed stems, he kept only the petals, storing them in transparent document bags.

    As he worked on this task, Fu Luoyin called out his name from the bed, "Lin Shuicheng."

    Lin Shuicheng acknowledged him, and Fu Luoyin fell silent.

    After a while, Fu Luoyin called out again, "Lin Shuicheng!"

    Lin Shuicheng turned his head to look at him. When he saw no response from Fu Luoyin, he remained quiet, continuing to tend to the flowers.

    Once he finished, Lin Shuicheng retrieved his phone, which had a cracked screen, and checked it.

    There were no new messages. As usual, he searched for Chu Shihan's name, but the results were still empty.

    He let out a soft sigh.

    Just then, he heard a noise behind him. Turning his head, he saw Fu Luoyin staggering to his feet and stumbling over to the bed.

    Without thinking, Lin Shuicheng exited the search interface and put his phone in his pocket. He asked, "Why did you get out of bed?"

    Rubbing his temple, Fu Luoyin replied gloomily, "I don't know."

    They stared at each other for a moment. Lin Shuicheng thought Fu Luoyin was going to repeat their previous conversation, but after sizing him up for a while, Fu Luoyin suddenly reached out and scooped him up into a horizontal embrace!

    Lin Shuicheng suddenly found himself suspended in mid-air, startled – but he didn't struggle.

    He looked up at Fu Luoyin in silence.

    Fu Luoyin gazed into his eyes, gently placing him back on the bed before leaning down to press a kiss to his forehead, just as tenderly as before.

    After the kiss, Fu Luoyin didn't do anything else but lay down beside him, holding Lin Shuicheng close. He nestled Lin Shuicheng into his embrace, inhaling his scent deeply, as if savoring it like one would pet a cat, before finally holding him still.

    "I remember, Lin Shuicheng, there's something I need to tell you," Fu Luoyin said.

    Trapped in Fu Luoyin's embrace, Lin Shuicheng couldn't move or stretch his hands, just as before in the corridor, with his arms wrapped around Fu's back. Fu was warm, exuding a comforting warmth that was characteristic of him.

    Lin Shuicheng remained still.

    He heard Fu say, "Don't be sad."

    After uttering those words, Fu seemed to have accomplished a significant task, drawing Lin Shuicheng closer and drifting off into a peaceful sleep. Half of his body rested on Lin Shuicheng, who tilted his head to look at him and gently lowered his gaze.

    He dozed off beside Fu for a while, dreaminglessly.

    In the middle of the night, rain began to fall on the island. The pitter-patter outside, combined with the humid warmth, roused Lin Shuicheng from his sleep.

    Fu still held onto him in the same position, motionless. Struggling to reach into his suit pocket, Lin managed to retrieve his phone and switched off the room's humidification system using the remote control app.

    The bright screen illuminated Lin's face. As he swiped through, a new message caught his attention – a friend request.

    Startled, it was due to the profile picture of the applicant, a selfie taken at an oblique angle with hazy lighting, reminiscent of the style favored by teenagers trying to look cool. More strikingly, at first glance, Lin almost believed it was Fu's former boyfriend, Xia Ran.

    The eyebrows and facial features bore a striking seven-point resemblance, but upon closer inspection, it wasn't the same person.

    His verification message read: "Help me, please! I truly have no other options!"

    Lin Shuicheng slightly furrowed his brow and accepted the friend request.

    The moment he did, the person immediately sent a flood of messages: "I'm so sorry to bother you, but I'm currently outside the hotel on that island. Do you have time to meet me? I need your help with something!"

    Lin Shuicheng replied with a question mark.

    The other party sent an audio message. Glancing at Fu Luoyin, who was sound asleep, Lin Shuicheng lowered the volume to a barely audible level before playing it out loud.

    A boy's voice, tinged with tears, came through: "I used to work for Mr. Fu. I've exhausted all my options, which is why I'm bothering you now. Can you help me? I took a taxi here and have no money left... I don't mean to disturb you, I'm begging you..."

    There were more words following, but Lin Shuicheng didn't play them all.

    He shifted gently, gradually extracting himself from Fu Luoyin's embrace. Just as he was about to get out of bed, Fu Luoyin tugged at the corner of his shirt. "Lin Shuicheng."

    With his eyes still closed, Fu Luoyin managed to mumble, "Don't go, you're not allowed to leave."

    Lin Shuicheng sighed, his lips moving, but ultimately, he said nothing. After straightening his clothes, he quietly stepped out of the room.

    The boy who contacted Lin Shuicheng was named Tang Yang, a few years younger than him.

    When Lin Shuicheng went out, it was pouring heavily outside. The boy stood alone under the hotel's canopy, drenched in rain and shivering from the wind. Upon seeing him, he gave a timid and nervous smile, addressing him as, "Sister-in-law."

    Lin Shuicheng no longer had the energy to correct a stranger's misnomer. He asked, "What can I help you with? —Come inside."

    He sized up the young man before him.

    He was young, fair-skinned, slender, and dressed in decent clothes that were visibly soiled, likely worn for several days. Under his sleeves, bandages could be vaguely seen wrapped around his hand.

    Tang Yang gave him an appreciative glance before following him in. The warmth of the heating system enveloped them, and the boy looked around, exclaiming, "Wow, this place is great, so big and nice."

    It was still early, and some people were still enjoying themselves. Lin Shuicheng ordered hot beverages and noodle soup from a convenience store and handed them to Tang Yang.

    Tang Yang swallowed, obviously hungry, but he refrained from eating. Instead, he stared intently at Lin Shuicheng, speaking after a while.

    "Sister-in-law, I didn't mean to bother you constantly, but I had no choice... Three years ago, I worked for Mr. Fu for a short while, but he dismissed me because he thought I was too dumb and uneducated. He let me go within a week. After that, I found a job adjusting machinery – those huge space vehicle assemblies. Recently, I injured my hand, and my boss was supposed to compensate me with 30,000 yuan."

    He held out his bandaged hand for Lin Shuicheng to see.

    A pungent odor of cheap disinfectant mixed with an unpleasant stench of decay wafted from the makeshift bandage.

    Tang Yang hastily withdrew his hand and, using his uninjured one, touched his nose while guiltily lowering his head and smiling. "Please don't look anymore, it's quite disgusting. Let me continue – I was supposed to receive thirty thousand yuan, but the boss went bankrupt and fled. Now, I have no money, my rented room's lease has expired, and the doctor says if I don't get treated, they might amputate my arm. They also asked me to get some sort of health insurance – I have no money and can't figure out what they want. Then, I saw in the news that some fugitive bosses were being dealt with. Three years ago, I worked for Mr. Fu for a week, so I thought, could Mr. Fu help me get back those thirty thousand yuan?... But I couldn't find Mr. Fu's contact information, only yours. Someone said you're his boyfriend and gave me your number. I'm really sorry, brother, but I had no other choice. I've seen how kind-hearted wealthy people can be, and they often engage in charity work. Can you please help me?"

    As he spoke, tears threatened to fall again.

    Listening to Tang Yang, Lin Shuicheng remained noncommittal and asked, "Did you bring any identification or documents to verify your story?"

    Promptly, Tang Yang handed over everything he had on him: his wallet, ID card, a crumpled certificate of employment and labor contract, and a doctor's diagnosis report.

    He felt deeply wronged. "I would've been able to live comfortably for two more years with those thirty thousand yuan – it was such a great opportunity. Who knew the boss would run away... Now, not only do I have no money, I might lose my arm too..."

    After checking, Lin Shuicheng confirmed the bankruptcy information of the company's owner mentioned by Tang Yang. The boss was indeed a notorious deadbeat who still owed many people their salaries.

    "I'll take you to the hospital first," Lin Shuicheng stood up. "I'll cover the medical expenses, and regarding that thirty thousand yuan, you don't need to worry about it – I'll give it to you."

    Tang Yang probably didn't expect things to go so smoothly, so he was momentarily stunned.

    When Lin Shuicheng took out his car keys and headed outside, Tang Yang finally snapped out of his daze and followed behind.

    As they got into the car, Lin Shuicheng asked, "Do you know how to drive?"

    Tang Yang hesitated before answering, "I've driven a forklift in a warehouse before..."

    Lin Shuicheng replied, "Then I'll set the car on autopilot. Let's head to the nearest hospital."

    There was a medical center on the artificial island for emergencies, but it was clearly inadequate for Tang Yang's situation. He needed surgery.

    The nearest hospital was two kilometers away, off the island, requiring them to cross a sea bridge and then descend a mountain road. Lin Shuicheng activated the autopilot and leaned back in his seat, leaving the driving to the car.

    Tang Yang, initially cautious and timid, gradually became more daring. He had realized that Lin Shuicheng was a kind person and eventually mustered the courage to sit in the passenger seat, slowly munching on some cheap rice crackers he had in his pocket.

    Not daring to speak, it was Lin Shuicheng who initiated conversation throughout the journey.

    "How old are you?"

    "I'm twenty this year. When I was with Mr. Fu, I was only seventeen. I came for the money; someone introduced us. But don't misunderstand, Mr. Fu didn't even touch me. He despised me."

    "Are you studying? You should be in university, right?"

    "My family did support me to study, but I'm just not cut out for it. Besides, we're quite poor, so I started working. Initially, getting my hand injured wasn't a loss. After the surgery fees, there would've been a sum of around ten thousand. But then the boss ran away..." Tang Yang chattered on.

    This boy was from a completely different world. When he spoke about his injury, there was a hint of self-satisfaction, as if his injury was a stroke of good luck – a free gain with no losses. His hand could be healed, and as long as he didn't consider himself "unlucky," everything would turn out well. What most people would call "bad luck" had become a profitable transaction in his shrewd calculations, as if his injured hand were a golden egg on a TV show that could be smashed without consequence.

    A faint stirring occurred within Lin Shuicheng's heart. He asked, "Do you need financial assistance? For yourself or your family?"

    Tang Yang was taken aback for a moment before quickly flashing him a smile, "No, no need at all, brother. You're a kind person, I know that. But once my hand is healed, I'll help run a convenience store back home. It's pretty good."

    There was an innate optimistic aura about him, or perhaps he was simply easily content.

    Lin Shuicheng fell into deep thought and decided not to press further.

    As the car smoothly crossed the sea bridge, something else came to Lin Shuicheng's mind. He turned to look at the boy beside him and asked, "Your appearance...?"

    Tang Yang looked innocent as he replied, "It's artificial. I had plastic surgery to resemble someone. The person who lured me over to meet Mr. Fu said that if the surgery was successful, he'd give me half the money he earned. He even coined a funny term for it, calling it a 'stand-in.'"

    Observing Lin Shuicheng's expression, he quickly complimented, "But in my opinion, brother, you look much better than me, and we don't resemble each other at all."

    Lin Shuicheng pondered, "Perhaps there might be some resemblance in other aspects."

    His focus was on the speedometer, and he casually instructed, "In a bit, I'll send you a number, it's President Fu's personal number. Tell him about today's incident. After you visit the hospital, mention that I've helped to repay some of his emotional debts."


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