You Have the Right to Keep a Secret Love

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Chapter 13: As If You're Getting Married

Qi Xi had thought that she and Gu Yan had resolved the crisis for Cheng Junliang, but to her surprise, just a day later, she and Gu Yan received a desperate plea for help from Cheng Junliang over the phone.

"The client refuses to budge and insists that I immediately compensate her with 120,000 yuan. Otherwise, she'll report me to the Bar Association," Cheng Junliang's tone was anxious and helpless. "I had initially arranged to meet her at the café for negotiation, but now she's brought a few intimidating individuals to corner me in there, demanding that I sign an agreement to pay her within three days, or they won't let me leave..."

In an urgent situation, Qi Xi and Gu Yan rushed to the café where Cheng Junliang was cornered, and there they finally met this client.

Surprisingly, the other party appeared very young, yet carried herself with a seasoned demeanor, clearly well-prepared, and even accompanied by a few burly men.

Qi Xi ordered her a cup of milk tea to ease the tension and then smiled at her, trying to sound gentle, "We are friends of Cheng Junliang. Let's sit down and discuss this matter calmly. We know about your situation, and Cheng Junliang is trying to raise the money."

Upon hearing that Cheng Junliang was trying to raise the money, the client's emotions finally eased a bit. She waved her hand, gesturing for her fellow burly men to leave first, and then she took a seat.

During the conversation, Qi Xi roughly grasped the information about this client, whose name was Lu Juan. Surprisingly, Lu Juan was two years younger than Qi Xi and her friends, but she had dropped out of school at sixteen and started working, making her quite street-smart and socially experienced.

Though she had a limited education, Lu Juan came across as quite shrewd.

Even though Qi Xi's group were the lawyers, when it came to negotiating with Lu Juan, she was relentless and dominant, especially when it came to money matters.

The person Lu Juan owed 120,000 yuan to was her ex-boyfriend, Pan Zhendong, who worked with her at a KTV*. Being strangers in a foreign city and of similar age, they quickly fell in love and started living together.

*KTV - Karaoke television

"Our relationship was great, and we planned to get married this year. Last year, I even brought him back to meet my parents. But then, my parents demanded a dowry of 100,000 yuan, and he couldn't come up with that much money at once. After we returned from my hometown, he said he would save up for the dowry. So, he started saving all his money," Lu Juan explained, taking a sip of her milk tea.

She paused before continuing, "I thought it was reasonable because I have an elder brother, and the dowry money my parents asked for would be used to find him a wife, not to support our small family. Pan Zhendong didn't mind our family situation and was willing to live a simple life with me, which really moved me."

Qi Xi understood, "So, all the expenses between you two were covered by you?"

Lu Juan nodded, "Exactly. Rent, utilities, daily expenses, I paid for them all. But the income from working at the KTV wasn't high, and he couldn't save much money. He said he knew a boss and wanted to start a business with him to earn enough for our marriage, but he needed some startup capital..."

Frowning, Qi Xi asked, "So, you lent him the money?"

Lu Juan nodded again, "In all these years, I sent most of my earnings back home, leaving me with no savings. But to help Pan Zhendong start his business successfully and to raise enough money for our marriage, I borrowed from online lenders. Initially, it was only 50,000 yuan, but with interest piling up, it has now become 120,000 yuan."

As expected, Pan Zhendong's business venture seemed to have failed.

Lu Juan continued, her tone filled with sadness, "Little did I know that not only did he not make any money, but he also lost a lot. He put all the money he had saved for our marriage into the business. Now, I'm overdue on the online loan, and I'm harassed by debt collectors every day. I dare not answer my phone, and even the KTV manager has been bothered. As a result, I lost my job. Pan Zhendong can't come up with a single penny to repay me, and he's unwilling to find a regular job to slowly repay the debt. Instead, he's obsessively thinking about continuing to work with that 'boss' and asking me to borrow more money from online lenders, saying that this time it will surely succeed..."

Listening to Lu Juan's story, Qi Xi couldn't help but feel sympathy. She hadn't expected such a shrewd person like Lu Juan to be so naive when it came to love.

Being inexperienced and overly ambitious, there was little chance of success in such a business venture.

Indeed, those who succeed in starting their own businesses are extremely rare. For most people, having a stable job and income is already a stroke of luck.

But unexpectedly, when Lu Juan mentioned Pan Zhendong, she couldn't help but embellish his image, saying, "Even though he doesn't have much money, he treated me exceptionally well. He might be the best person I've ever met in my life, even better to me than my parents."

Her eyes turned slightly red as she continued, "The debt collectors hound me every day, and it really puts me in a bad mood. So, we end up arguing all the time, and as a result, we lost our feelings for each other. In the end, he initiated the breakup, but he acknowledged the money owed to me. He gave me a loan agreement for 120,000 yuan, promising to take responsibility for my online loan."

Lu Juan sniffed, "Right now, I don't want to dwell on the love aspect. I just want to get this money back. Pan Zhendong has been making some money lately, working with that small business boss. With the loan agreement, I could have asked for the money back. But, Lawyer Cheng Junliang lost my loan agreement!"

As expected, when it came to the money issue, Lu Juan's shrewdness returned. "Now that Pan Zhendong knows I lost the loan agreement, he adamantly denies borrowing money from me! When we broke up, he still had some feelings and was willing to take responsibility like a man when we wrote the loan agreement. But now that we've been separated for a while and he needs more investment for his business, he heard about the lost agreement and plans to evade his debt!"

Glaring at the bewildered Cheng Junliang, Lu Juan said, "So, because of your carelessness in losing my loan agreement, I won't be able to recover this money! Do you know how many years it took me to save up 120,000 yuan? Do you know that without this money, those debt collection companies have driven me to the brink?!"

One had to admit that Lu Juan's emotions were incredibly adeptly displayed. One moment she was questioning Cheng Junliang, and the next moment, tears were streaming down her face, and her emotions transformed into anguish. "Lawyer Cheng, you must take responsibility for this. You must give me this money. My parents have no idea about this. Otherwise, they would kill me. Not only did I fail to bring money home this year, but I also incurred debts. If this gets out, I'll have no face left. The debt collection agencies are demanding I repay within three days, and I can't sleep at night. If you don't give me this money, I won't be able to go on. I can only see death as my way out..."

Cheng Junliang had never encountered such a situation before, and to make matters worse, it was his own negligence that caused the problem. He felt embarrassed and guilty, stuttering, "I... I don't have that much money. How about I pay you in installments? Give me some time..."

Clearly, this was exactly what Lu Juan had been waiting for. She wiped her tears and immediately said, "That's fine! If the debt collectors can negotiate with me that I give them some money upfront, they won't pressure me so much. But you can't repay the entire amount at once, what if you pay a few installments and then run away? How about this: you write a document today, specifying when the 120,000 yuan will be fully repaid. After that, you can gradually pay me back. This way, everyone will be at ease. I won't pursue this matter any further, and I won't talk to your boss or report you to the Bar Association. We are all ordinary people, so we should be lenient to one another."

Cheng Junliang was obviously swayed by Lu Juan's proposal, and he was just about to agree when Gu Yan intervened, "There's no need to rush into the written agreement. Cheng Junliang has just started working, and he doesn't have that much money. He reached out to us for help. If he wants to give you the money, the terms of installment payments and the progress should be discussed with us. After we have a plan in place, we'll arrange for you to meet here tomorrow."

Upon sizing up Gu Yan, Lu Juan probably thought that Cheng Junliang couldn't escape this situation even if he became a monk. Seeing that Cheng Junliang looked ashamed and didn't object, she pondered for a moment before agreeing to Gu Yan's proposal.


After Lu Juan left, Cheng Junliang's expression sank, and he muttered, "Is there any freelance work I can do for English legal contract translation? I'll take it even if it's cheap..."

"Don't worry about that right now," Gu Yan furrowed his brows slightly, "I have one question. Since Lu Juan and Pan Zhendong broke up long ago, and the matter of losing the original loan agreement should only be known to you and her, how is it that Pan Zhendong is fully aware of it? How did he know the loan agreement was lost? How can he be so sure it's gone and therefore be so bold in refusing to repay the money?"

Gu Yan pursed his lips, "Unless Lu Juan told him herself that the loan agreement was lost."

That's right!

Qi Xi finally understood where that deep sense of dissonance in Lu Juan's story came from.

Everything seemed reasonable, but Lu Juan's various reactions felt carefully orchestrated, as if she had predetermined how she should respond in each situation. Sometimes she acted tough, other times she softened, cried about her financial difficulties, or even threatened. Looking back now, nothing seemed to slip through her fingers.

Cheng Junliang was still a bit confused, but Qi Xi quickly grasped the situation and looked at Gu Yan. "So, you think there's something fishy about Pan Zhendong refusing to repay the money?"

Gu Yan nodded. "Starting a business isn't that easy, especially considering Pan Zhendong's background, as described by Lu Juan. He only graduated from vocational school and didn't learn any specialized skills. Working as a junior manager in a KTV, it's unlikely he'd have connections with high-level big bosses. Given these circumstances, even if he associated with a 'big boss' and started a business, it's hard to believe he'd turn things around quickly enough to make money."

As Gu Yan spoke, Qi Xi understood everything.

Even if Lu Juan had the original loan agreement, she wouldn't be able to collect anything from Pan Zhendong if he had no money, even if she won the lawsuit and applied for enforcement.

In this situation, even if she somehow recovered the loan agreement, after winning the lawsuit, she still wouldn't get a penny. Instead, she'd have to pay attorney fees.

But if Lu Juan claimed that Pan Zhendong now had money to repay her but was using the excuse of the lost loan agreement to evade repayment, then she could hold Cheng Junliang responsible for losing the loan agreement, making him compensate for her losses.

Cheng Junliang, as a law school graduate, had been somewhat confused in the midst of this incident. But now, as Gu Yan pointed it out, he finally understood.

He realized, "Under normal circumstances, if Pan Zhendong really had the money to repay Lu Juan, she would never have mentioned that she lost the loan agreement."

"Exactly." Qi Xi felt a lingering fear. She had nearly believed Lu Juan's words. "I didn't expect her to be younger than us, but she's much more scheming."

Cheng Junliang also fully comprehended the situation and recalled the suspicious traces from the past, "No wonder she was desperate when she said she lost the loan agreement at first. Then after a few days, she stopped being anxious. When I continued to communicate with her about suing Pan Zhendong and proposed a possible solution even without the loan agreement, she showed little enthusiasm. Either she said Pan Zhendong couldn't be reached, or he refused. Initially, I thought they had difficulty communicating emotionally after the breakup, so I asked her for Pan Zhendong's contact information, intending to reach out to him myself. But Lu Juan kept stalling and didn't give it to me."

The three exchanged glances, knowing that the situation was now tricky.

In the legal profession, once a client and lawyer were on the same page, it was a winning combination. However, if the client had ulterior motives and held onto the lawyer's flaws and mistakes, things would become troublesome.

Qi Xi also wore a troubled expression. "Even if you manage to obtain Pan Zhendong's contact information and try to gather evidence, it's likely futile because he may have already colluded with Lu Juan."

After all, Cheng Junliang had lost the loan agreement, and as long as Lu Juan and Pan Zhendong plotted together, it would be a win-win situation for both of them. Lu Juan could get money from Cheng Junliang, and Pan Zhendong wouldn't have to be responsible for the debt, perfectly transferring and clearing the debt.

Cheng Junliang looked defeated, but Qi Xi suddenly had an idea, "When Lu Juan handed over the original loan agreement to you, was there any evidence? Did you sign a receipt for the handover? Were there any witnesses present when she submitted the documents to you? Does your office have surveillance footage to prove she handed it to you?"

Cheng Junliang hesitated for a moment and shook his head, "I didn't sign a receipt for the handover. She delivered it to me personally. The other lawyers in the office were all out that day, so I was the only one who received her. There's no surveillance in our office area."

Qi Xi pondered for a moment, "Then how did you communicate with her after you lost the loan agreement? Did she have any recordings or other evidence to support her claims?"

"This matter was too significant. I felt that texting on WeChat won't show enough respect to her, and over the phone, it won't be clear enough. That's why I decided to apologize to her in person and discuss this matter face-to-face. All subsequent communication was also done in person to express my sincerity and apology. I'm also quite certain that she didn't record anything because when I initially asked her to meet, she had no idea what it was about, so there was no way she could have prepared to record any evidence in advance."

After Cheng Junliang finished speaking, he became distressed again. "Sigh, I actually sorted out the other evidence and thought that as long as Pan Zhendong didn't know about the lost loan agreement, we could deceive him and win the case. But now, it has turned into this, and I'm afraid my life is ruined."

Cheng Junliang's eyes were slightly red, displaying genuine despair and helplessness. "Twelve thousand yuan. How long will it take me to save up that much if I don't eat or drink?"

He had heavy dark circles under his eyes, looking extremely exhausted and worn out. He seemed to have had no good sleep during this period.

Qi Xi pondered for a moment and said, "Actually, there's still another way."

Cheng Junliang looked at her without hope, seemingly not taking her seriously.

Taking a deep breath, Qi Xi continued, "Even though you lost the loan agreement, it could have been rectified. However, now that Lu Juan refuses to cooperate in collecting evidence and is determined to extort you, she is acting unscrupulously, and we cannot be unjust."

Cheng Junliang was a bit puzzled. "What do you mean?"

Gu Yan pursed his lips and explained, "Her point is, Lu Juan did indeed lend money to Pan Zhendong. However, legally, if there isn't enough evidence to support it, the court won't recognize this fact. So, even if you did lose Lu Juan's loan agreement, she doesn't have any evidence to prove that she handed you the original agreement. If she can't provide evidence, then legally, this fact won't be recognized either. So, from a legal and evidential standpoint, you never received Lu Juan's loan agreement in the first place, and there's no evidence that you lost it."

Qi Xi genuinely admired Gu Yan; he seemed to quickly grasp her way of thinking every time, seeing through all the details.

"Yes, that's what Gu Yan said," Qi Xi blinked her eyes, "and this is a completely normal litigation strategy. Although you're still an intern lawyer, there's no rule that intern lawyers can't encounter legal issues or become litigants. So, let's say I treat you as my client, disregarding our student relationship. From a lawyer's perspective, I would definitely give you this advice for your case."

Once they thought of it this way, the problem seemed much easier to solve.

"If Lu Juan loses the case, it will most likely be because Pan Zhendong took advantage of not having the loan agreement and denied the borrowing relationship. So, if Lu Juan sues you, claiming you lost the loan agreement, you can simply use the same defense strategy as Pan Zhendong, denying that you ever received the original agreement. This way, there is no issue of you losing it, and naturally, you won't be held responsible."

Qi Xi finished speaking and looked at Cheng Junliang, adding, "After all, there is no evidence to prove that you received the loan agreement or that you lost it."

With her explanation, Cheng Junliang's eyes lit up completely. He suddenly became too emotional and grabbed Qi Xi's hand, expressing gratitude, "Qi Xi, you're amazing! I should've thought of this!"

Seeing Cheng Junliang and Qi Xi so excited and jubilant, Gu Yan's face turned cold, and he wore a black expression. "Can you two hold back your excitement until the matter is resolved?"

This man was nitpicking, "Holding hands and getting all cheerful, anyone would think you're about to get married. Is this such a great thing?"

With that said, Cheng Junliang immediately blushed and let go of Qi Xi's hand, feeling embarrassed as he scratched his head. "I really appreciate both of you for helping me with advice. As an intern lawyer myself, I know I shouldn't take advantage of other lawyers' time and efforts for free. If you're willing, could you two represent me together in this case? Treat me as your client, and you can handle the communication and confrontation with Lu Juan on my behalf."

Cheng Junliang's face was filled with shame. "I'm not very smart, and I'm afraid I'll appear nervous in front of her or make more mistakes."

He was afraid that Qi Xi and Gu Yan would refuse, so he quickly added, "Although I know this case is small, and the legal fees won't be much, I still hope you can do me this favor."

Qi Xi pondered for a moment and then looked at Gu Yan with a pleading expression. "Can we take this case?"

Gu Yan furrowed his brows. "I heard from my sister that there's a collective labor dispute lawsuit coming up soon, and just the evidence materials are estimated to fill several suitcases. It might be quite exhausting afterward. I suggest..."

Qi Xi couldn't help but pout. It was her instinctive reaction whenever someone rejected her. She looked like a sulking pufferfish and then looked pitifully at Gu Yan. "We can't take it?"

Gu Yan hesitated for a moment, then cleared his throat. He averted his gaze awkwardly but remained calm. "I didn't say we can't take it. I was about to say that I suggest accepting it and resolving it quickly. We should handle it in a short period, so it won't affect the collective lawsuit later."

Great! Gu Yan's thoughts were aligned with hers!

However, both of them were intern lawyers and couldn't handle cases independently. Even if they took on a case themselves, they needed a supervising lawyer to be the named representative.

On their way back to the law firm, Qi Xi felt quite proud. "Attorney Gu will definitely praise us, right? Even though the case's value is small, as intern lawyers, we've shown excellent potential in expanding our caseload. Overall, we're so teachable, and our future looks bright!"

Unfortunately, compared to Qi Xi's expectations, Gu Yan didn't seem that optimistic. "Don't think too much about it."

"Does Attorney Gu have particularly high standards and rarely praises people?"

Gu Yan didn't reply and just pursed his lips, slightly wrinkling his brows.

Qi Xi wasn't too concerned; she thought that even if Gu Xuehan didn't praise them, she would at least recognize their efforts.


However, Qi Xi never expected that when she and Gu Yan reported their plan to take on Cheng Junliang's case to Gu Xuehan, instead of praise, they received Gu Xuehan's stern expression and merciless criticism.

"You are simply acting recklessly!"

Gu Xuehan's tone carried restrained anger. "Who came up with such a lousy idea?"

How did she manage to get herself into trouble?

When Qi Xi had just reported the case, Gu Xuehan was looking at her. Facing Gu Xuehan's questioning, although she felt nervous and scared, Qi Xi decided to step forward and take responsibility.

But before she could speak, she heard Gu Yan's voice ahead of hers.

"It was me."

Gu Xuehan showed obvious displeasure. "What were you thinking?"

"Legally speaking, your planned operation is sound, and it can effectively shift the responsibility. The defense strategy is also valid. But even though this works from a legal standpoint, can you truly justify it in your heart?"

Gu Xuehan's expression was serious and solemn. "Cheng Junliang's client isn't perfect, and there are indeed significant personal motives involved. However, Cheng Junliang is a lawyer, and as a lawyer, he has responsibilities he must fulfill. If he hadn't lost the loan agreement in the first place, would Lu Juan have resorted to such tactics? Since Cheng Junliang is the one who caused this situation, his first reaction should be to do everything possible to make up for the client's losses."

"We, as lawyers, need to consider our clients' interests as much as possible when handling legal issues. However, at the core, legal matters deal with interpersonal problems between people, whether it's divorce or infringement disputes, the ultimate focus is on human issues. To properly handle a case, our purpose should not be to suppress and harm the other party's rights for the sake of our client. Instead, we should aim for balance."

"Indeed, you can use the methods you mentioned to deal with Lu Juan, but will she be convinced? No, what does 120,000 yuan mean to someone like her? She won't hesitate to use any means to harass Cheng Junliang or you, the lawyers handling the case. Even if you complain to the bar association or sue her, as there's no evidence proving the delivery of the original loan agreement, it won't make much difference. But Lu Juan will find plenty of ways to disrupt your normal work and life. Whether it's hanging banners, sending harassing messages, or exposing the matter online, you wouldn't want to open this Pandora's box."

Gu Xuehan looked at Gu Yan and said, "As lawyers, we may encounter various types of clients, but the kind of person our client is should not turn us into someone like Lu Juan. We shouldn't resort to evil to fight evil. The client's bad behavior isn't a valid reason for us to behave badly."

These words left Qi Xi feeling embarrassed and ashamed.

Indeed, she had only focused on helping Cheng Junliang avoid responsibility and thought about how to legally escape, without considering the aftermath.

"As professionals, we should handle professional matters. Lawyers should protect their clients' rights, but we should also have a global perspective. Many clients may not fully understand whether their demands are best suited for them. Just like Cheng Junliang, he's immersed in the situation and can only think short-sightedly about escaping the 120,000 payment. But since you want to represent him, as Cheng Junliang's lawyers, you shouldn't think like him. Instead, you should have a broader view. If Cheng Junliang successfully uses legal loopholes to evade responsibility, will Lu Juan go crazy? Will her emotions spiral out of control, leading her to spread this matter everywhere? Is that good for Cheng Junliang's future?"

"Lu Juan knows that it was you two who orchestrated Cheng Junliang's actions. She knows you two are lawyers. She will keep pestering Cheng Junliang while biting down on you two as well."

Gu Xuehan's tone was filled with frustration. "Gu Yan, have you even used your brain?"


Because Gu Yan had taken the blame, Gu Xuehan's anger was focused on him. She didn't go easy on her own brother and criticized him severely. This was the first time Qi Xi had seen Gu Yan being scolded like this.

At school, Gu Yan had always been the darling of both the school and the teachers, and this was almost the first time Qi Xi had seen him being scolded like this.

In the end, it was she who had proposed the plan and wanted to put it into practice. Although Gu Yan had thought about this approach, he had never supported or encouraged Cheng Junliang to do it.

Though she didn't want to be scolded and leave a bad impression on her boss, Qi Xi finally mustered the courage to admit, "Attorney Gu, actually, this plan was my idea..."

But before she could finish, Gu Yan interrupted her, "It's not your fault."

After saying that, Gu Yan calmly looked at Gu Xuehan. "Everyone is responsible for their own actions. It's my problem."

Gu Xuehan clearly showed no mercy towards her younger brother, but Gu Yan remained tight-lipped, enduring all the blame by himself.


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