Yan Yan blurted out, “Be careful!”

The situation changed too quickly. He only had time to throw himself and press down on Jiang Ting’s ankle, while also grabbing onto the stone pillar, stopping Jiang Ting from sliding further outward.

But in the blink of an eye, one and a half of the three people who were originally on the riverbank were hanging in mid-air. All the weight was resting on Yan Yan’s hand gripping the stone pillar, freezing in that critical moment.

“I’m a deceiver… but I only deceived you with one sentence.” Bu Wei’s falling weight was too much for Jiang Ting to bear. Every word was squeezed out between his clenched teeth. “That sentence is, your name means nothing to me… it’s not like that. From the beginning, you were just yourself in my eyes, it had nothing to do with me, and you weren’t my shadow.”

Bu Wei lifted her head. Jiang Ting’s right hand tightly grasped her only elbow, and the weight of several tens of kilograms caused Jiang Ting’s pale fingers to dig deeply into her flesh.

“Black Spade K deceived you. Regardless of what he told you, it was all a lie. You were still too young and hadn’t had a chance to see the truth, but as long as you come up…”

Jiang Ting felt his center of gravity tilting outward inch by inch. Cold sweat trickled down his temples, and his face turned blue and purple from exertion.

“As long as you come up, I’ll tell you, Bu Wei, everything that has happened over the years, everything—”

Bu Wei finally reacted. Her light laughter came from the wind.

“It would be better for you to tell me when we’re down there.”

At this point, their balance was at its limit. Bu Wei’s other hand suddenly grabbed Jiang Ting’s arm, and she used all her strength to pull him downward!

Yan Yan shouted, “Stop!”

Jiang Ting slid outward with force, and in that instant, Yan Yan’s heart almost stopped, his mind going blank. By the time he reacted, he had tightly grabbed Jiang Ting’s ankle, with most of his body hanging out, barely stopping the momentum of the fall—

Then, like a kite with a broken string, Bu Wei fell straight into the river from a height of several meters!

Splash!

Water splashed up, reflecting in the depths of Jiang Ting’s pupils.

His body was completely suspended above his waist, the river’s surface roaring with fierce winds. It made it impossible for a person to maintain balance, and he couldn’t even reach the protruding stones on the riverbank. Jiang Ting, upside down, took two breaths and suddenly shouted, “Yan Yan! Let go!”

Yan Yan cursed through gritted teeth, “Fuck…”

“Let go!” Jiang Ting’s hoarse shout changed tone. “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to hide it from you!”

Yan Yan was stunned. Jiang Ting suddenly exerted force and kicked Yan Yan’s hand away. In that split second, both of them fell into the river with Bu Wei!

“Fuck!”

Yan Yan’s curse came from the bottom of his heart, more genuine than 24-karat gold. He quickly got up, kicked off his pants and shoes in two steps, not thinking about anything, and leaped over the riverbank into the water.

The river water rushed towards him, instantly hitting his eardrums.

Yan Yan surfaced, spitting out bubbles, took a deep breath, and then dived again, swimming vigorously against the current.

Fortunately, it was the height of summer, and the river water wasn’t too cold at night. Yan Yan’s swimming speed was also very fast. It didn’t take long before he felt the turbulent flow ahead. He increased his efforts and swam forward, his hand indeed touching a person.

—The touch and figure were clearly Jiang Ting’s.

Although Yan Yan had a mixed childhood, as the only son of a wealthy family, he had undergone proper training in essential skills such as diving, racing, and wilderness survival to prevent encountering dog-blooded scenarios like kidnappings. Jiang Ting’s swimming skills were not bad, but his water adaptability was definitely not as good as a semi-professional like Yan Yan. He struggled in the water, splashing water everywhere, and managed to reach the shore from behind.

“Huff… huff…” Yan Yan’s soaked shirt clung to his chest. As he panted heavily, he forcefully hugged Jiang Ting in his arms, who was drenched and disheveled, sitting opposite him.

“Are you crazy? Jumping into this kind of water in the middle of the night?!”

“I just grabbed her in the water,” Jiang Ting coughed and hoarsely said, “I almost, I almost…”

Yan Yan forcefully patted his back.

“She had some money on her, and she said she planned to go south to work. I guess she’ll contact Black Spade K in the future, although it’s unlikely she’ll be able to reach him. But maybe she can lure out Jin Jie and more of their subordinates… I didn’t expect her to just…”

It’s unclear whether it was due to excitement or lingering fear, but Jiang Ting’s whole body was wet and cold, trembling severely. Yan Yan tightly held his palm, bearing most of his weight, almost sitting on the riverbank with a half-hugging posture. The sound of water roared into the distance with the wind, disappearing at the end of the distant plain.

“It’s no use, she can’t be saved.” Yan Yan succinctly and firmly spoke in Jiang Ting’s ear. “Water rescue requires the cooperation of the person being rescued, but she only wanted to drag you down with her.”

Jiang Ting nodded, trembling, and after a long time, he leaned against Yan Yan’s warm embrace, gradually calming down.

“Black Spade K.” Suddenly, without warning, Jiang Ting spoke, his voice still hoarse from being soaked. “He’s particularly skilled at inducing this kind of nature, a bit of an antisocial tendency, or minds that haven’t fully developed, easily swayed by power. It’s his innate talent. He had it from a young age. Not just towards Bu Wei, but also towards me… also…”

“I know,” Yan Yan said in a deep voice. “You and Black Spade K were the real first pair of victims in the series of consecutive kidnapping cases, right?”

Jiang Ting remained silent for a long time and nodded.

“When did it happen, around fifteen or sixteen?”

“…No.”

Yan Yan slightly lowered his head and met Jiang Ting’s gaze. He saw the corners of Jiang Ting’s pale lips curl into a brief smile. “It was when I was ten years old, the first time I met Black Spade K.”

Yan Yan felt a slight surprise in his heart. He could tell that these two had known each other for a long time, but he didn’t expect it to be that long!

“I was abandoned at the doorstep of a welfare institute, not this one,” Jiang Ting weakly gestured towards the direction of Jiayuan Road in the distance. “It was in another city. At that time, living conditions were generally poor, especially in remote areas. It wasn’t as popular as it is now to adopt children. I grew up in the welfare institute until I was ten years old. I didn’t study much, I just ran around playing in the mountains whenever I had the chance. Until one summer evening, I met a boy who seemed to be around the same age as me on the riverside. He was dressed very nicely and played the violin by the water…”

In early summer evenings, with red clouds filling the sky, a well-dressed young boy stood by a small river in the countryside, playing the violin.

If this scene were given to a great director to film, it would definitely be a very romantic and poetic, perhaps even beautiful scene. But for some reason, maybe because of what happened later, this image gave Yan Yan a strange and chilling feeling deep in his heart.

“I had never seen this boy in the nearby towns before, so I found it very fascinating. I speculated that he might be the young master of a wealthy family. After I had spied on him for a while, I discovered that he often played the violin in an abandoned theater. His music was beautiful, so I secretly sneaked out of the welfare institute and ran several miles to the theater, hiding behind the stage on the second floor to listen to his performances.”

“We became friends through that—well, I really thought we were friends back then.” Jiang Ting chuckled self-deprecatingly. “It’s all my damn curiosity. I was always so curious and couldn’t control my own foolish actions.”

Yan Yan was holding his hand, palm against palm, and upon hearing this, he lightly tapped the back of Jiang Ting’s hand.

“How did Black Spade K introduce himself to you back then?” Yan Yan asked.

“A kid of eight or nine years old, did he need any introduction? I can’t even remember the fake name he made up for himself…” Jiang Ting rubbed his face weakly. “It was something like Kai Kai or Ke Ke. Anyway, I didn’t think much about it at the time. I had a new friend, and I happily sneaked out to play every day. Sometimes, when we couldn’t get enough to eat at the welfare institute and were hungry, he would bring snacks and treats for me.”

Jiang Ting weakly raised his hand to cover his face. “Stop looking.”

However, Yan Yan gently but firmly moved his hand away and looked directly into Jiang Ting’s pale face. “So when the kidnapping happened, you went all out to protect your little friend?”

Jiang Ting lowered his head, and from Yan Yan’s slightly higher angle, he could only see the dripping black hair and a small patch of fair cheek, reflecting the distant streetlight.

“Yes,” Jiang Ting said with difficulty after a while.

“When we were trapped in the valley, he had a high fever, and I had to search for water everywhere. I was so thirsty that I dared not even drink to avoid coughing up blood… Actually, I didn’t think too much. I just felt that if I died, there wouldn’t be anyone who cared. But he was definitely a young master who had parents, relatives, and people who loved him, like a god. If there was only one person who could survive, it would be more worthwhile for him to live.”

—Such were the thoughts of a ten-year-old child on the brink of desperation.

Yan Yan had been rough since childhood and had never paid much attention to the so-called disparity in wealth or class barriers. But at this moment, the self-deprecating and cautious nature of the orphan from a mountain ditch twenty-something years ago rushed through time and landed heavily on his heart.

“Shen Xiaoqi swore to Bu Wei that he would repay her after they got out, just like back then. Black Spade K might have made an even stronger promise, something like a lifelong brotherhood… like lines from a TV drama. But I can’t remember after more than twenty years.”

Jiang Ting chuckled bitterly and avoided eye contact, gazing at the shimmering river.

But in that instant, Yan Yan sensed with intuition what Jiang Ting was thinking—Jiang Ting didn’t forget, in fact, he remembered it very clearly.

And precisely because he remembered it so clearly, he was even more unwilling to bring it up.

“In the end, were you both rescued?” Yan Yan asked gently. “And that so-called mineral water…”

“What water? There was no ** water at all.” Jiang Ting shook his head mockingly. “Black Spade K’s so-called betrayal was a metaphor for something else—after being trapped for several days, dehydrated, with high fever and injuries, almost at the limit, some of Black Spade K’s men finally tracked us to the valley. By that time, I was barely conscious, but I vaguely felt someone above me shouting, ‘Grab the rope.’ I instinctively reached out my hand, but Black Spade K was quicker. He suddenly pushed me from behind, snatched the rescue rope, and I watched as he was pulled up.”

“They left you behind?!”

“Not exactly.” Jiang Ting paused and said, “But indeed, it took another good half a day, even until sunset… before someone pulled me up.”

Now, it may seem casual, but for a severely dehydrated and dying young boy, the joy of hope, the instant disappointment, and the hours of agonizing waiting alone were beyond the imagination of many adults.

Yan Yan’s lips moved, but he didn’t know what to say. After a while, he managed to squeeze out a sentence, “What about those people at that time…”

“They didn’t really want to save me.” Jiang Ting said softly. “I know.”

The faint moonlight pierced through the clouds, casting reflections on the river, the plain, and the distant mountains. Jiang Ting closed his eyes silently and, when he opened them again, he seemed to see a similar night, the same cold and desolate moonlight, passing through the crude frosted glass of a rural hospital—

He lay on a small hospital bed, opened his eyes, and saw a familiar figure standing against the light, holding a small bunch of wild fruits in his arms.

Neither of the two children spoke. After a while, the standing boy suddenly asked out of nowhere, “Do you remember that I pushed you?”

“…Yes,” Jiang Ting nodded.

“Do you hate me?”

Jiang Ting pondered for a moment and shook his head.

“Why not?”

The high fever made Jiang Ting’s voice weak and hoarse. He spoke softly and delicately, “Because they are your family. They saved you first, and that’s only right.”

“…”

“I don’t have a family.”

Finally, the little boy moved. He gently placed the bunch of wild fruits on the bedside table, then tiptoed and leaned close to Jiang Ting’s ear. His voice was soft and firm, one word at a time:

“I am your family.”

“From now on, we will share wealth, status, and power equally. You are my only brother.”

The wind swept across the earth, through mountains, rivers, plains, railway tracks, and the vast city lights, blowing a sharp whistle, swirling and dancing towards the horizon.

Jiang Ting shivered slightly and was immediately embraced by Yan Yan, who pressed his palm firmly against Jiang Ting’s damp black hair at the back of his head.

“So you grew up together with Black Spade K?”

Although it was a question, Yan Yan’s tone was that of a gentle statement. In fact, he was prepared to accept any answer.

To his surprise, he felt Jiang Ting shaking his head in his embrace. “No. Do you remember I told you a few years ago, when I was investigating the new ** compound ‘Blue Gold,’ I encountered Black Spade K at an abandoned village drug manufacturing site, and he even pointed a gun at my head?”

Of course, Yan Yan remembered. It was when they returned from Jiangyang County to Jianning. That night, when he forcibly climbed through the window and took Jiang Ting out for a drink—though the veracity of the story was still up for debate.

“That’s true.” Jiang Ting seemed to see through his thoughts, a faint bitter smile appearing in his eyes. “That was the first time I encountered the adult Black Spade K, exactly twenty years after the kidnapping incident…”

“So now you know why, after the secret investigation operation was exposed, he silenced those informants but agreed to let me go, even promised to cooperate.”

Outside the factory gate, heavy rain poured down, and countless faint blue specters flickered in the darkness. The endless dim lights filled the field of vision, as if ghostly lights were dancing in the depths of the 18th level of hell.

“Twenty years have passed… but I never forgot about you.”

In the distance, amidst the heavy rain, came muffled impacts—bang, bang, bang—that was the sound of gunfire.

Jiang Ting’s trembling fingers hung limply at his side, but he forced himself to stay calm. He raised his head slightly, even though this movement could potentially disturb the cold barrel of the gun against his temple.

“So, do you want to kill me now?”

“No.” He heard Black Spade K laughing. “You are my only brother, always have been. My wealth, status, power, and all the bizarre things in this world, I can share them all with you…”

“Just like twenty years ago, we shared the spring water, wild fruits in the mountains, and later, that lifesaving rope.”