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Chapter 27: A Warm Blanket
Li Xin squinted at Qi Mo questioningly. "You… Qi Mo, the great overlord Qi of the might Qi Clan… fear dying?"
He heard the mocking tone in her voice and yanked her over, sinking his teeth into her neck. A yelp of pain escaped her, but she couldn't move. He let her go after a few moments, the area he'd bitten already turning red. "Letting one's guard down is the beginning of one's death," he said.
The world of organized crime was merciless; there was no guarantee that an overlord's life was worth more than any of his underlings, no guarantee that one would outlive anyone else simply because of their ranking. His power was not a safety net — this, Li Xin did not know, for despite her own experiences with petty thievery, she was naive when it came to the battlefield that was the criminal underworld. To start off, robbery and thievery sounded similar, but were two very different offenses.
Li Xin could detect a glint of murderous intent in Qi Mo's eyes, but somehow, she sense that it was not directed towards her. Still, the throbbing pain pulsing through her neck reminded her that the man before her was savage. He operated beyond the boundaries of morality and ethics, in a world where there laws had no role. He did whatever he wished, whenever he wished.
She pursed her lips and stared up at him. "Are you not afraid I'll betray you?" She asked.
A menacing smile overtook his face. "Only if you're able to," he replied.
She shut her eyes against his overly confident face. Provoking a wild animal was never a good idea, she thought to herself. She needed to figure out the best way to preserve her own life.
As if sensing her sudden grudging acknowledgment of her circumstances, Qi Mo nodded in satisfaction and reached over to pull Li Xin to his chest. "If you do what you're told," he offered, "I can perhaps consider sparing Mu Suixin's life."
Li Xin froze. She wanted to raised her head, but he had his hand on the back of her skull, holding her firmly to him. The way they were positioned, her face was practically in his neck. The thought of Sui Xin suddenly sent her mind into disarray, and she unconsciously brought her hands to grasp him by the sides of his waist.
It had only just occurred to her that if she had been captured, then the other members of the organization probably had too. Getting caught by the Qi Clan wasn't the worst thing that could happen to her, especially since it seemed that he clearly needed her for her skills. Sui Xin, on the other hand, would probably not be shown the same mercy. She cursed silently.
"Let her go, and I'll listen to you," she said into his neck, her voice coming out slightly muffled. With no relatives, Sui Xin was the only person in this world she bothered concerning herself over. The other girl's existence was more than that of a family member — she was the only good thing that happened to her over the years.
Qi Mo didn't respond. The minutes ticked by in the deafening silence between them. Then, Li Xin felt his arms tighten around her waist, so that she found it slightly hard to breathe. He was informing her that she was in no position to be bargaining with him. She ground her teeth in frustration. "I'll listen to you," she muttered. "Leave her alone." She released her hands from his hips and circled them loosely around his waist.
Yet again, her words were met with silence. This time, she felt about half an hour pass before she lost her patience. She had already agreed to obey him, what else did he want? She moved her head in an attempt to look up at him. Her budging caused his arms to tighten again, and she saw Qi Mo's face crease in annoyance. "Go to sleep," he ordered impatiently.
That stopped her movements altogether and she lay there, unmoving, surprised.
She spent the entire night in the same position, her body tense and eyes open, lying frozen in Qi Mo's arms until the sky began to lighten with the first traces of daylight. At that point, she felt it was safe to assume that all he had meant to do was hold her while he slept, as if she was some sort of cushion.
Eventually, at dawn, she too lost her battle with sleep and succumbed to the land of dreams, despite all her misgivings and worries.
"Get up." By the time Qi Mo's cold drawl broke the hard-sought silence in the bedroom, the sun was already glaring brightly in the sky.
Li Xin was so sleepy that she barely heard him, her sleep-fuddled brain registering nothing but noise. She grimaced and buried her head into her warm pillow. She had lain awake in the same position all night, unable to fall asleep thanks to the discomfort of having Qi Mo's arms around her.
She was going to kill whoever was making all that noise; she was freaking tired.
There it was again. Then her wrist suddenly started hurting, prompting her to grumble and force her eyes open. It felt like her wrist was about to snap in half.
The first thing that came into view was Qi Mo's stony glare — confused, Li Xin blinked sluggishly a few times, then shifted her eyes down to her wrist. Qi Mo had his hand clasped around it, which explained the pain; then, she realized that her other hand was clinging to his neck.
All of a sudden, she jolted awake. There was no way she had fallen asleep holding onto him… was there? She immediately shifted her body away from him as all of the previous day's events flashed through her mind. She took her hands off him and faced him with a nonchalant expression.
From somewhere outside the room, Red Falcon's steady voice came drifting through the door: "Boss, we've thoroughly investigated yesterday's attack. Would you like to take a look?" He must have waited until he heard that the overlord was awake before sending his report.
"You handle it," Qi Mo responded, his brows knit together tensely.
"Understood. Also, on today's agenda is a visit to Li Manor. What time shall we head out?" The other man's clear, crisp voice came through the door again. There was no hesitation on his part, no assumption that because of yesterday's attack, today's plans would be canceled. He clearly understood Qi Mo's personality and had a lot of faith in the leader's abilities.
The overlord stretched his arm out to look at the watch on his wrist. "Twenty minutes," he decided.
Red Falcon gave a hum of acknowledgement and then the sound of his fading footsteps echoed around the room.
By this time, Li Xin had already made her way into the bathroom and was observing her reflection in the mirror, taking in the haggard appearance of her face and the dark bruises lining her neck. She frowned and splashed a bit of water on her cheeks. A clear, blue sky taunted her from outside the window. Somewhere close by in the trees, birds were chirping cheerfully. The expansive freedom of the world outside, once hers but now unattainable, caused her to tighten her hands into clenched fists and begin punching the surface of the water in the sink.
Eventually, she would escape. Eventually.
As she exited the bathroom, she heard Qi Mo say, "Come here."
He was sitting at the edge of the bed, hair dripping wet, clad in nothing but a towel. A pair of clothes lay next to him, presumably just delivered by someone. She walked over and grabbed a towel that lay on top of them and began drying his hair. Li Xin hadn't learned much in her life aside from petty crime, but she considered herself quite intuitive and good at predicting what people wanted from their body language.
Meanwhile, Qi Mo had clenched his fists tightly and was about to strike her, but he held himself back and slowly unfurled his fingers. He had been taken care of all these years and was no stranger to servants dressing him, but he had always been touchy about his head. No one was allowed to come near it, the reason being that he considered the skull the weakest part of the human body — it could not handle damage, a fact that made him feel uneasy and exposed.
Yet Li Xin's touch was gentle as she swished the towel back and forth through his hair. He felt his instinctual reaction taper off. Perhaps it was because of the unguarded way the two of them had spent the night in each other's arms, or because of some other unknown reason; either way, Qi Mo found that he felt no danger, and silently allowed Li Xin to continue.
this chapter seemed so strange and arbitrary lol i just feel like their interaction is so awkward…