Cheng Xi seriously felt that her understanding of patients suffering from emotional detachment was really too limited! She resolved herself to focus on Lu Chenzhou after Chen Jiaman’s illness improved. It wasn’t just because of that astronomical contract-breaking fee, but also so that she could happily be friends with a rich guy.
Speaking of Chen Jiaman, Cheng Xi suddenly remembered that Lu Chenzhou seemed to have displayed some interest in her condition, so she mentioned it just as Lu Chenzhou was about to hang up. “What I’m planning to do involves that patient with Cotard’s syndrome. Her family lives somewhat far away, so I might be borrowing your chauffeur for quite a while. Is that fine?”
Lu Chenzhou didn’t say anything, but when his chauffeur arrived and Cheng Xi got in the car, she found that Lu Chenzhou was sitting in the backseat.
She couldn’t help but smile. Under the sunlight, her eyes seemed to reflect the morning clouds in the sky. “Hi. I’m very happy to see you, Mr. Lu.”
The chauffeur couldn’t help but glance at her a few more times. However, Lu Chenzhou merely looked at her coolly, and then lowered his head and refocused his attention on the laptop in his hands.
He still had unfinished work; the time he was spending with her had been squeezed out from an extremely tight schedule.
Cheng Xi didn’t bother him any further, and sat at the front to help the chauffeur navigate. Chen Jiaman’s family lived in a small town by the next county. Even when driving at high speeds, it took them almost two hours to get there.
The small town wasn’t too prosperous, but it wasn’t poor, either. On the streets were mostly newly built apartments. The Chen family lived at the end of the street, where a number of other families were clustered. Because the “accidental murder” incident had happened not too long ago, it was essentially still fresh in all the townspeople’s minds. So, after asking around briefly, Cheng Xi and Lu Chenzhou quickly found the house they were looking for.
The house seemed to also have been rebuilt recently and looked quite new. It was a three-story building with a medium-sized backyard, a tall wall, and a big metal door. Its features made it stand out even amongst a crowd of newly refurbished buildings.
It looked as though her family was quite well-to-do.
The metal gate was closed but not locked. Cheng Xi asked the woman who had led them there. “Can we go inside and look around?”
“Go ahead,” she replied casually. “But the door to their house is locked, and you can’t enter.”
Cheng Xi nodded, pushed open the metal gate, and entered the backyard. This was a classic suburban courtyard, quite tidy,except for the junk and charcoal briquettes haphazardly scattered about a corner of the wall. Two small loquat trees had been planted near the wall, spreading a weak greenness in the rustling autumn wind.
There were few traces remaining of that hair-raising scene of more than a month ago. If not for the seal on the door and a small, dark red bloodstain by the corner of the porch, perhaps nobody would notice that something like that had ever happened here.
The woman that had led them here was quite cordial. After noticing that Cheng Xi had taken interest in the two loquat trees, she said, “These trees came from my own backyard and were planted the year they renovated their house because the elderly lady said that her granddaughter enjoyed eating loquats.”
“Did the elderly lady get along well with her granddaughter?”
“Oh yes, of course. She would skimp on eating and buying new clothes for herself to support her, but that lass was no good. She didn’t attend school or do anything productive; she fought the old lady all the way. From my perspective, Miss Lawyer”—Cheng Xi had introduced herself as Chen Jiaman’s defense lawyer upon asking for directions—“that lass wouldn’t have had a good time here even if she were released from the hospital as she wouldn’t be cared for by her father or wanted by her mother, especially not after going crazy. Why not leave her in prison. What if she kills someone again when she gets out? Insane murderers aren’t responsible for their actions under the law, are they?”
Cheng Xi didn’t answer her questions, and instead asked, “Has Chen Jiaman always lived with her grandmother? Where’s her mother? Do they have any other relatives?”
“Oh, no. Their grandfather even moved in to live with his wife’s family; what other relatives could they have? They just one aunt, who stopped coming after Chen Jiaman’s father gambled her money away. As for her mother, she’s bad too. Since she despises her family’s lack of wealth, she ran away after giving birth to Chen Jiaman, and even took their eldest son with her. They say that she didn’t have enough money and even had to sell her son to get by.”
“...But their house isn’t too shabby. They can’t be considered poor, can they?”
The woman leading them fumbled for a moment, before finally responding, “That only happened in the last two years, when Chen Jiaman’s father broke his gambling habit and went out to sea. There, he managed to get a bit of money to fix the house; they used to be really poor before.”
“And her mother never returned?”
“Never, why would she? After selling her son off and meeting the boss of a big corporation, why would she come back now that she’s living a well-off life? Don’t joke around.” Saying that, she turned and looked around tentatively, before coming closer and softly whispering, “Given that woman’s promiscuous behavior, we all suspect that Chen Jiaman isn’t truly a member of the Chen family. However, her grandmother would have none of it, treating her like a little princess. But then…” She shrugged her hands. “An accident happened.”
Cheng Xi was silent. Regardless of how much she had just heard was truthful, she could imagine what sort of personality Chen Jiaman would develop in this environment: introverted and self-abasing; and if not undisciplined and out of control, then timid and strange.
Sighing, she then asked, “When did Chen Jiaman start skipping school?”
“About two years ago.”
“Why was she unwilling to attend?”
“She just didn’t want to go.” After saying this, the madam patted the nonexistent dust on her clothes. Cheng Xi noticed that her gaze had started avoiding hers, and her expression had become somewhat artificial. So, she quickly changed the subject. “I say, Miss Lawyer, the police have already asked about all these things, so why are you still asking about them? We were all here when she killed her grandmother. She looked just like a little wolf child, frightening beyond belief. Even after that, even after she’s gone crazy, are you still going to defend her?”
Cheng Xi duly replied, “That’s the due process of the law.” She wanted to keep talking about Chen Jiaman’s school life, but the madam clearly didn’t want to stay on this topic. Even when Cheng Xi asked her about where Chen Jiaman’s school was, she replied disdainfully, seemingly not wanting to answer. “Why would you go to her school? Since she quit going to school, do you think that her teacher would have been able to stop her?”
Her tone was caustic. Cheng Xi frowned, clearly realizing that she wouldn’t be able to get anything else out of her. She walked around the Chen estate again, thanked her, and then got back into the car.
The madam came out with her, but didn’t leave. Instead, she walked to another house and stood under its roof. Out of that house came a lady about the same age as her; the two of them started talking and occasionally glanced at Cheng Xi and Lu Chenzhou.
Cheng Xi drew her gaze back. “Where to next?” the chauffeur asked.
Cheng Xi opened an app on her phone, looking for nearby schools. Luckily, it wasn’t too hard to figure out where Chen Jiaman had gone; the town only had one kindergarten, one elementary school, and the only middle school was over in the next town.
Two years ago, Chen Jiaman had been twelve, and thus she should have been enrolled in middle school. She turned around and talked to Lu Chenzhou about what she had heard, and then asked, “At twelve years old, she should have been in sixth grade, just entering middle school. If I want to understand what her school life was like, do you think that I should go to her elementary or her middle school?”
As she said this, Lu Chenzhou’s gaze was fixed to his screen, completely unresponsive. She didn’t think he would respond, but unexpectedly, he replied, “To the middle school.”
Cheng Xi was slightly shocked. “Why?”
Lu Chenzhou’s face looked like he was unable to bear it any further. He raised his head and asked, “Were you really top of your class in school?” His tone was mocking. “With this sort of intellect, are you sure that the teacher wasn’t just going easy on you?”
Cheng Xi remembered that he had heard this on the night of Shen Wei’s wedding, so she seriously responded, “I think that it’s more likely that my classmates went easy on me. They saw how pretty I am, so they let me pick up the first place position.”
Lu Chenzhou didn’t say anything, merely focusing his attention on her one half-dimple, his thoughts self-evident.
Cheng Xi guessed that discussing whether or not her half-dimple was beautiful or not with an obsessive-compulsive maniac would be a pointless endeavor, so she hurriedly covered up that half of her face, and then continued asking. “You haven’t explained why we should go to her middle school over her elementary school.”
“What was her elementary school performance like?”
“I saw that her living room had many certificates and prizes, so I’m sure that she did fine there.”
“Then that’s it,” Lu Chenzhou said coolly. “As someone who got through elementary school just fine, why would she quit just as soon as she entered middle school?”
After hearing this, Cheng Xi clapped her hands together. “Ah, that’s true.” Smiling, she praised him, “You’re awesome, I never thought about that.”
Lu Chenzhou turned around, unable to bear looking her in the eye.