If time were to rewind ten months ago, Xu Qingyan would never believe that she would make such a decision.
Back then, she was just an ordinary member of society.
After graduating, she was fortunate enough to secure a position at the hospital thanks to the favour of her teachers.
Every day, she fought on the front lines, saving lives and treating illnesses tirelessly and without complaint.
She spent her days in consultations, ward rounds, studying medical records, and did not engage in too much social interaction after work.
Her life was filled with exercise, reading, and sleep.
While it might seem boring to others, Xu Qingyan was content.
Occasionally, Cao Jin would contact her.
They would meet up for a meal and exchange updates on their lives.
Every time, Cao Jin would smile helplessly and say, “Can you talk about your life? Why is it always about work?”
Xu Qingyan would pause, carefully thinking, and could only come up with, “This is my life.”
Cao Jin sighed, “That’s not called living.
Tonight, I’ll treat you to a movie.
How long has it been since you’ve been to a cinema?”
Xu Qingyan rested her chin on her hand, and a rare smile appeared on her delicate face.
“No, I’m on duty tonight.”
In everyone’s eyes, even Cao Jin, Xu Qingyan seemed emotionally detached, like the air on a mountaintop—cold and thin.
Sometimes, they didn’t know how to communicate with her.
Indeed, she had been an introverted child since she was young, and her classmates often mistook her reserved nature for arrogance.
She had been bullied by mischievous classmates because of this personality trait.
However, there were slight differences between her before the age of twenty and after, but no one, not even her closest loved ones, could pinpoint exactly what changed.
It was as if a piece of her soul had suddenly gone missing, never to be replaced.
But Xu Qingyan believed that she had her own life, even if others didn’t understand it.
For example, she enjoyed traveling alone.
Her job limited her freedom, but she always managed to make it a point to go on a trip every year.
With a backpack on her back, she would let go of burdens and explore the world with just a map, feeling carefree.
Perhaps she had a bit of an adventurer’s spirit deep down, but most people couldn’t see it in her usual demeanor.
This time, Xu Qingyan went to Nepal for a visit, opting for a self-guided trip.
Accommodation didn’t matter much to her as she wandered between different small hotels by the roadside.
She wasn’t in a hurry to visit tourist attractions.
Instead, she would sit by the window, savoring a cup of tea while observing the local life in the small streets and alleys, enjoying the rare tranquility.
Before leaving one place for another, Xu Qingyan held her camera and took photos to capture memories of this small hotel.
At this moment, she had a vague sense that the atmosphere in the hotel was different from usual.
When she focused her lens at the reception desk, two men behind the counter suddenly rushed towards her, forcefully snatching her camera.
Both men were Chinese, one tall like a leopard with sharp, piercing eyes, while the other was slim with a dark complexion, exuding a strong sense of menace.
It was this man who had snatched her camera, his grip so tight that it left a red mark on Xu Qingyan’s palm.
He stared coldly at her, as if he could snap her neck with a single move.
He growled in a low voice, “What were you taking pictures of?”
Xu Qingyan had heard in the past few days that the area she was currently in was located near the border and not entirely safe.
She knew that she had to rely on her own luck when faced with such situations.
“I’m sorry, I just wanted to take a picture of that decoration,” Xu Qingyan calmly pointed to the row of stone statues placed on the front desk.
The man seemed skeptical, and the man behind him continued to scrutinize her with leopard-like eyes.
“Are you a doctor?” His low voice felt heavy as if it pressed down on her, making it hard to breathe.
Xu Qingyan paused, following his gaze to her luggage, where a prestigious medical journal was placed.
Xu Qingyan dared not lie, “Yes.”
The man asked again, “A surgeon?”
Xu Qingyan hesitated, and the man with a dark face turned his head and exchanged a glance with the man behind him.
Then, he suddenly grabbed Xu Qingyan’s arm and lowered his voice, saying, “Come with me.”
Even though Xu Qingyan remained calm, cold sweat started to form on her back.
However, she still asked without changing her expression, “Where are you taking me?”
The dark-faced man was impatient and didn’t allow Xu Qingyan to say much.
Without explaining, he forcefully pulled her along.
On the other hand, the man with leopard-like features stepped forward and spoke in an unquestionable tone, “We need your help.”
Although they said it was asking for help, who would use violence to request help from someone?
While confronting them earlier, Xu Qingyan had already observed her surroundings.
The shopkeeper had been feigning ignorance the whole time.
Having survived in this unstable area for many years, they had already devised a prudent way to protect themselves.
It was possible that these shopkeepers were not entirely innocent either.
Seeking help from them would be futile, and her phone was inside her bag, with no opportunity to retrieve it.
In the hotel lobby, there were no other guests present apart from them.
Although unsure of the identities of these two men, upon seeing the tattoo on the dark-faced man’s neck and the dark aura emanating from the leopard-man, it wasn’t difficult to deduce that they belonged to the underworld.
In other words, she had unwittingly walked into danger today.
Xu Qingyan was forcefully escorted by the two men, one in front and one behind, to the innermost area on the ground floor.
She knew that calling for help now would only hasten her demise.
Lost in her thoughts, she couldn’t help but wryly smile.
Who could have imagined that a melodramatic TV plot would unfold in her own life? She blamed herself for not listening to Cao Jin’s advice.
He had warned her earlier that this area was not as calm as it appeared, and he had advised against venturing here alone.
The dark-faced man and the leopard-man continued walking until they reached the last room.
The dark-faced man turned around and glanced at Xu Qingyan, saying, “You’re not allowed to make any noise after entering.”
Xu Qingyan nodded in acknowledgement.
The dark-faced man opened the door and entered the room, with Xu Qingyan following closely behind.
She had mentally prepared herself for witnessing something terrifying, but the room was dark.
The curtains were drawn, preventing her from seeing clearly.
The leopard-man closed the door behind her, and for a moment the only sound in the room was the beating of her own heart.
The leopard-man whispered urgently behind her, “Move.”
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