The back door was smashed open, startling Linghu Ming into leaping out of his comfortable seat in the study. He stood there with his heart beating wildly for a second and stared at the door, listening for any further sounds. He didn’t hear anything but he didn’t trust that nothing had happened.
He narrowed his eyes and opened the drawer next to him, pulling out a pistol from inside that gave off a metallic blue light. Then he inched closer the door, trying to keep his steps as light as possible.
He pressed himself up against the doorframe, the weapon raised in his right hand while he activated the identity token on his left wrist with a quick movement of his eyes. He turned on the three hundred sixty degrees scanner for the house and then checked if somebody was around the corner.
The token lit up with a pale blue light, drawing two circles, and then showed a model of the house. Linghu Ming glanced over it. Apparently, nobody was in the corridor next to him but somebody had gotten into the one opposite the backdoor and was slowly moving toward his direction.
The pace was odd after the person made that much noise when coming in. If they were here to assassinate him, shouldn’t they have either been more careful when entering or moved as fast as possible afterward? Well, this was not the time to ponder that.
Linghu Ming furrowed his brows and then quickly rushed through the corridor and into the living room on the other side. He kept one eye on the model and then quietly slipped behind a couch, making sure that the person wouldn’t be able to see him from the other side.
He took position and then aimed at the doorway, ready to shoot as soon as the person got into view. If they were really here to assassinate him, they should expect him to be in the study so they definitely had to pass by here. They certainly wouldn’t search the whole house.
He had to say that they were rather stupid though. They hadn’t even interfered with the scans. Weren’t they afraid he’d discover them and anticipate everything they did? Or could it be —
The doorbell rang.
Linghu Ming turned in the direction, his mind churning. Maybe this was a ploy? They wanted him to believe he was safe and then, when he had let his guard down, they’d divert his attention and shoot him down from behind?
He furrowed his brows again and glanced at the scan, motioning with his eyes to show him the square in front of his house. When it did … his brows couldn’t help but raise.
There wasn’t just one person. No, there was one in the front with two people flanking them. And behind those three … He counted several large cars with a row of men behind them. Judging from the position they were crouching in, they were expecting some kind of battle.
This should be the military?
Linghu Ming sighed and lowered his own pistol. He got up from behind the couch and secured it at his back before going to the door. The screen next to it had lit up and was showing a serious face.
Linghu Ming opened and gave a faint smile. “Marshal, what might be the matter?” His gaze brushed over the cavalry behind him and he raised his brows. “Did something happen?”
The Marshal gave a curt nod. “I’m sorry for disturbing the prime minister on his day off but that detestable Bei Qiang Yi managed to infiltrate the Prime Star. We were able to wound him but he got away. He was last seen in the vicinity so we came to make sure the prime minister is safe.”
Linghu Ming sighed and shook his head. “This is unbelievable. He doesn’t seem to put you in his eyes at all. With how often he’s sneaked in already, one would assume he would have learned his lesson already.”
The Marshal tensed but finally only cleared his throat after a moment. What could he do? It was true that despite the many infiltrations, he had never managed to catch Bei Qiang Yi. They had wounded him, yes, but somehow, this guy always got in and out anyways. He was like a slippery fish that they were holding in their hands one moment but the next, it would have wound out of their grasp and jumped away, disappearing somewhere between the waves.
While the Marshal was able to swallow his complaints, one of the younger men behind him wasn’t. “The prime minister doesn’t need to worry. This time, we’ll definitely get him!”
Linghu Ming gave him an insipid look but didn’t say anything. After over five dozen attempts, who would believe they would suddenly get lucky? Instead, he turned back to the Marshal. “Let me see if I can help out. If he is wounded, he should have difficulty traveling and will likely look for a hiding place.”
The Marshal nodded.
Linghu Ming raised his left arm and activated his identity token once again. This time, he didn’t silently maneuver it though. “Deep-scan the government district for possible intruders. Especially mark possible targets that are moving slow or remaining at the same place.”
The identity token blinked twice and then a scan appeared that was multiple times bigger than the one from before despite the different scale. The blue lines that marked the buildings were interrupted by the glaring light of several red dots. They were displayed in a different intensity with one of the brightest lights being in the house right next door.
Linghu Ming looked up at the Marshal and motioned at it. “It seems you have your possible hideout here, Marshal.”
The Marshal’s lips twitched. “Then we should go and check it out.”
“Do that. I wish you luck. Oh, right, let me send you the scan. You know I can only keep it up for one hour at most. Afterward, you’ll have to go and talk to the president if you want to extend the period of time you can use it. You know how long that takes so … I’m afraid you’ll have to hurry up. Otherwise, Bei Qiang Yi will be long gone.”
“Mn, thank you for the reminder, prime minister. We’ll take our leave then.”
Linghu Ming nodded and then stepped back, moving his hand past the sensor to close the door.
Outside, the Marshal sighed deeply and then waved for the others to follow him to the house next door. The men behind him exchanged glances and then went along, leaving the square in front of Linghu Ming’s house empty.
Meanwhile, Linghu Ming went back to the living room and stopped in the doorframe, his gaze turning disapproving as soon as he saw the scene inside. “How often have I told you not to sit on the couch when you’re injured? It’s white! The robots have a hard time cleaning it without leaving traces.”
The man on the couch dangled his arm behind the back and gave him a bright smile. “I missed you too, babe.”
Linghu Ming tsked and went over, sitting down next to him. He whistled and a robot came rolling over, opening a compartment at the top. There were several rolls of gauze, a spray for disinfection, and some other utensils for treating wounds lying inside. “So? How bad is it this time?”
“Oh, don’t worry.” Bei Qiang Yi reached into the back of his shirt and pulled. There was the sound of something ripping and finally, he threw a bag on the table, splattering blood on the surface.
Linghu Ming’s brows twitched.
“What? It’s glass.”
“And you think that’s an acceptable reason to make a mess?”
“Eh. Don’t be mad, babe.” Bei Qiang Yi reached over and cupped his cheek. “Aren’t you happy at all to see me again?”
“I would be if you hadn’t broken in through the backdoor and once again made the Marshal appear at the front door in a matter of seconds. Do you think I’ll always be able to play dumb? What if he requests to search my house once?”
“Ah, I trust in your authority as the prime minister and your ability to bullshit everybody. Since nobody has found out in the past five years, nobody will find out in the next five years either. And who knows? By then, I might even chuck in my job.”
Linghu Ming looked at him sternly.
“You’re a pirate. That’s not a job you can just ‘chuck in’.”
“No?” Bei Qiang Yi raised his brows. “I thought I could. Or do you think it’s not a job? Actually, that’s not quite right. What’s a job, really? It’s something you do that allows you to bring money home so you can spoil the one who’s precious to you.” He reached out and tilted Linghu Ming’s chin up. “Wanna see what I brought home for you, babe?”
“Will it get me into trouble if I do?”
“Oh, don’t worry. I didn’t steal it from the army or anything.”
Linghu Ming raised his brows.
“Don’t look at me like that! It’s not from your president either. You’ll like it, I swear!”
“The last time you swore I’d like it, you brought back an heirloom of the Triple Moon Empire which — if I may remind you — is our ally and they were not amused when their envoy found it in my house after you refused to tell me where you got it.”
Bei Qiang Yi coughed. “Technicalities. How could I have known you had to get along with them? You have to cut me some slack, babe, I’m not up to date on politics. Anyway, this time, I went with something classy so you wouldn’t get into trouble.” He turned back and pulled out a small chest, handing it over to Linghu Ming. “Come on, open it. You’ll definitely love it! I’m serious. And there’s no hidden thorns with this one.”
Linghu Ming still gave him a skeptical look but finally opened the chest. Lying inside was a brooch. It had the shape of a leaf and was so finely work that it looked almost like the real thing. Each small vein was clearly visible. To be honest, it was very pretty. But knowing Bei Qiang Yi it couldn’t be so simple. “What is it for?”
“Let me show you.” Bei Qiang Yi took it out from the chest and opened it, carefully taking Linghu Ming’s hand and pricking his finger. The brooch lit up for a second and then returned to normal but the leaf seemed to have changed colors.
Linghu Ming raised his brows. “Oh? That does look interesting.”
“Didn’t I say you’d like it?” Bei Qiang Yi reached over and clasped the brooch on Linghu Ming’s lapel.
The leaf once again changed color, looking as if it was made out of silver. It suddenly seemed like a rather understated piece of jewelry on the taupe-colored suit jacket.
“It’ll change colors to fit whatever you’re wearing. Also, it’s tied to you now so all the other great functions it has will only be available to you. That includes the option to record audio over here.” He pointed at the end of the leaf’s stem.
Linghu Ming nodded. That was a good function to have.
“The best thing is that it comes with a coating that is able to ward off detection from scanners so even in a situation where you’re not supposed to use it, you’ll still be in the clear. Since others can’t use the functions, they won’t be able to find out even if they have you hand it over either.”
Linghu Ming’s gaze slowly became more interested. A recording device was handy to have, especially if it was small and fashionable and could easily be taken along, but it was nothing special. This was something else entirely though. It might really come in handy. “Is that all?”
“Of course not.” Bei Qiang Yi managed to look offended. “How could I get you something so cheap? It has a plethora of other functions.”
“Which are …?”
“Babe, how can you be like this? I only just came back, braving the fierce onslaught of the military so I could see you. I handed over my token of appreciation basically on sight as well. And yet, you haven’t even really greeted me and only complained about me making a mess everywhere. I feel unappreciated.”
“You mean you feel horny after being away for so long and want to take advantage of me.”
Bei Qiang Yi’s lips twitched. “Babe, you’re so cruel. Even if you’re able to not only tell but also smell bullshit from a mile away, there’s no reason to tear down the facade like this. Wasn’t it very harmonious just now? Couldn’t you at least pretend for a while?”
Linghu Ming looked at him with the same unapologetic expression. This guy might pretend that he had done so much but, honestly, he liked showing off how easily he could get away from the military and he was usually fishing for compliments as soon as he came so it was no wonder he had been on what resembled his best behavior. He wouldn’t fall for his pitiful act. Then again …
Linghu Ming glanced at the blood bag on the table and then at Bei Qiang Yi’s shoulder. Even though he had managed to get in without being hurt this time around, it hadn’t always been like this. And whenever he sneaked in, there was always a risk of getting caught.
He sighed and waved the robot with the dressing material away and then cupped Bei Qiang Yi’s cheeks. Before he had the time to ask what was happening, he leaned forward and lightly kissed his lips. “Welcome home.”
Bei Qiang Yi raised his brows and then a smile broke out on his face. “Yeah, I’m back.”
“Mn. Now, go and wash up. Even if it’s not your blood, your clothes are still dirty.” He got up from the couch and wanted to go back to his study to finally continue to work but Bei Qiang Yi grabbed his wrist and pulled him back, wrapping him into his arms.
“I missed you, babe. Can’t you spend a bit more time with me? How about taking a shower together with me?”
Linghu Ming who had just wondered if maybe he should, stepped onto his foot and gave him an angry look. “Stop fooling around. What if the Marshal comes back? You should get ready to react on short notice.”
“Yes, yes, yes.” Bei Qiang Yi pursed his lips but still went to the bathroom. Anyway, he was already home. In an hour or so, that Marshal would definitely leave and then, they could spend more time together. By then, Linghu Ming wouldn’t have any excuses anymore.