After thinking it over for a moment, Cheng Xi replied, “Okay.”
Mr. Liu then looked towards Lu Chenzhou, who nodded his head nonchalantly.
“What you promised me earlier, I expect it in full.”
Lu Chenzhou merely replied coolly, “Yes.”
Cheng Xi looked him over once. “What did you promise him?”
Lu Chenzhou didn’t deign to reply. “You can start talking now.”
Both men fluidly ignored Cheng Xi’s question. After hesitating for a long moment, Mr. Liu started talking. “The reason why Chen Jiaman decided to quit school was, as my daughter said, because she was bullied. More specifically, she was a victim of schoolyard violence.”
“Chen Jiaman’s personality was reclusive and eccentric. Not only that, but her parents were frequently gone, so she only had her old grandmother by her side. For most of her school life, she was crowded out by her peers. When she was small, the kids couldn’t do all that much to her, but in middle school, as they grew older, the students developed more ways of bullying her.”
“Not long after she entered middle school, she became very popular with the boys due to her looks. You know how jealous and rebellious teenage kids can be, more so than at any other age. Some of the other girls didn’t like the fact that she was so popular, so they gathered a crowd of people to surround her after school. Perhaps at that time, with so many people there, the bullying got out of control, and what they did...... was particularly vicious. And from that time on, Chen Jiaman never came to school again.”
This sort of thing seems to be happening everywhere lately. Cheng Xi sighed. Despite her already being able to largely guess what had transpired, in order to understand Chen Jiaman’s condition more thoroughly, she could only say, “May I ask, how bad?”
Mr. Liu silently retrieved a phone from a bag. After pressing a couple of buttons, he held it out in front of Cheng Xi. “I have a video here that you can watch.”
Cheng Xi took the phone and opened the video. It was very short, fewer than twenty seconds long, but its contents were a ghastly sight.
Despite her being prepared for a brutal scene, she was still flabbergasted, and a righteous fury consumed her.
She hadn’t imagined that kids could be this vicious. “This is illegal!” She looked at Mr. Liu, stood up, and slapped her stack of documents on the table. “As a teacher, while knowing the truth, how could you not call the police, but instead actually try to cover it up?”
Mr. Liu’s head drooped slightly. “....I also didn’t have a choice. As a paltry math teacher, I could only meekly follow what my superiors told me to do. As you’ve seen, the children who took part in the violence weren’t just one or two kids; it was a whole crowd of them. Two of the children’s families have deep connections, so that entire crowd was essentially able to do whatever they wanted. Furthermore, they are all underaged children. Even if we had called the police, what could they have done? Chen Jiaman’s grandmother thought that this was a very embarrassing thing and also decided to keep quiet about it, not pursuing the matter any further. She was especially quiet after she received a bit of money as reparation fees. If the victim doesn’t call for an investigation, then the school will always the matter drop, regardless of the severity.”
Mr. Liu’s words weren’t very logical; clearly, this matter was a large burden on his chest, so even just mentioning it again made him anxious and defensive.
Cheng Xi shut her eyes, thinking of the newly restored three-story house that Chen Jiaman had lived in. She remembered that the woman who had brought her to the house said that it was only in the last two years that they had been able to refinish it…… After letting out a deep breath, she tried to calm down. “Was Chen Jiaman’s house built with those reparation fees?”
“Yes. Chen Jiaman’s grandmother’s thought process was that, if she had a big house, then despite her granddaughter being bullied, they would have enough money to not need to worry about her not being able to get married.”
Cheng Xi’s heart almost stopped. “Did Chen Jiaman’s father know about this?”
“Probably not. He was out fishing and rarely returned home. Even when he did come back, it would only be for two or three days at a time. I heard that, because Chen Jiaman looked very much like her mother, he didn’t want to see her all that much. Thus, the two didn’t like each other very much.”
“...Did Chen Jiaman’s mental illness develop after that incident?”
“More or less. But after that, she rarely left the house, so I also don’t really know when it became a big issue.”
“And then you also said that when she was in school, when you confiscated her artbook, she made a big fuss about it with you and even bit you. Was that true?”
“Yes, it was.”
“And how was her mental condition at that time?”
“Alright, I think… she just didn’t talk very much, and I wouldn’t have remembered her if not for that incident.”
Cheng Xi was quiet. Mr. Liu, upon seeing her ugly expression, couldn’t help but add, “Actually I…… did report the incident to the police, but it wasn’t of much help. My phone had only these scant few seconds of video, and none of the kids are identifiable. Besides Chen Jiaman, no one else’s face is in it, so even the police couldn’t find out anything.
Cheng Xi mockingly replied, “It’s not that they couldn’t find out anything, but rather that all the people who knew about it decided to keep mum, right?” She then recalled her own investigation. If not for Mr. Liu’s four-year-old daughter, I probably wouldn’t have been able to find anything either.
Mr. Liu rubbed his face. Cheng Xi asked him a few more questions, but upon seeing that he wasn’t very clear about the details either, she let him off the hook, as he wanted.
After Mr. Liu left, the atmosphere became somewhat depressing. Of course, that was only Cheng Xi’s mood, because her attitude after this whole debacle was terrible. Lu Chenzhou still looked calm and collected, and even somewhat excited at seeing her angry.
It was only after a while that Cheng Xi noticed that he was looking at her. She took a moment to collect herself and then asked, “What are you looking at?”
“What have you noticed?”
“You’re very angry,” he said,with a trace of confusion in his voice. “Why are you so angry? You’re just a doctor.”
Cheng Xi let out a deep breath. “It’s a righteous fury, wholly unrelated to my person and my occupation. It’s a natural emotion that people who have to deal with unfair and dishonest situations feel.”
Perhaps it was because she was still feeling upset, but Cheng Xi’s words were quite harsh.
Lu Chenzhou understood her words, but he merely smiled in response. “The strong man’s anger is directed towards those even stronger than he, while the weak man’s anger is to those even weaker than he. That’s the way of the world; what’s there to be furious about?”
Cheng Xi was surprised. She didn’t expect that Lu Chenzhou would use Lu Xun’s words to respond to her.
She reorganized her thoughts and then responded, “The most important part of life is to develop and grow in response to one’s own fury. So, if the road is unequal, then someone has to flatten it.”
If he was going to use Lu Xun’s words, then she would use Balzac’s in response. Lu Chenzhou was clearly familiar with Balzac too; his expression didn’t change, but his eyes did become warmer. “It’s all useless,” he lamented.
“If it were all useless, then why did you help me by bringing Mr. Liu here?” After saying this, she suddenly remembered. “Right, what did you promise him that would get him to say all this?”
Lu Chenzhou didn’t immediately answer, and instead pointed at the seat next to him. “Sit down here.”
Cheng Xi thought that what he was about to tell her was a secret and very important, so she sat down without hesitation. Then, she lifted her head towards his, waiting for him to explain.
The overhead light shone on her white skin, as translucent as a well-cut piece of jade.
Lu Chenzhou again had that aching feeling in his heart, just like back in the small town. It was as if there was a feather lightly scratching the tip of his heart.
Very lightly, but enough for him to feel a difference.
He leaned down slightly, intending to kiss that rosy-hued jade. But despite being nonplussed, Cheng Xi was able to dodge it, and his lips landed on her half-dimple instead.
He opened his mouth, biting down without hesitation.
1. Lu Xun is one of the most well-known Chinese writers of the 20th century