After returning to her office, Cheng Xi took out her phone and found that Lin Fan had sent her a single message.
From the timestamp, it didn’t seem like it had been sent that long ago. During that time, she should have been accompanying Chen Jiaman.
After thinking for a moment, Cheng Xi replied back, “Congratulations for what?”
This time, she waited a long while, but didn’t receive a response. As she was waiting, the police officer in charge of Chen Jiaman’s case coincidentally called her. Cheng Xi told him about the results of her own investigation through the phone, and the officer appeared to be quite shocked at her findings, saying, “We didn’t know about this. Please give me a moment, and I’ll go to you right away.”
When Cheng Xi saw the importance that the police placed on this information, she felt like she could finally breathe. Perhaps the final outcome still wouldn’t be what she desired, but she fervently hoped that the people responsible for this would have to at least pay a portion of the deserved price.
As such, once the policeman arrived, Cheng Xi told him about her own experiences in the little town in detail, and also gave him the video footage that Mr. Liu had given her.
Despite disagreeing with Mr. Liu’s attitude of protecting himself first, she had nonetheless promised to keep him anonymous. So, she could only say that the footage had come from a stranger’s number. As to whom that number belonged to, honestly, Cheng Xi wasn’t sure if the police could track it.
As soon as the police took the footage away, this matter was out of her hands.
After the police left, Cheng Xi felt a strange unease creep over her. Lowering her head, she found that there was a string of missed calls from Shen Wei, as well as Lin Fan’s unread reply. “Congratulations on finding your true love.”
Cheng Xi abruptly changed the topic, and immediately replied back, “Are you still at the hospital?”
This time, Lin Fan responded quickly. “Yes.”
“Has Mrs. Lin finished her checkup?”
Cheng Xi looked at the clock; it was already time to leave work. “Let me treat the two of you to a meal.”
Lin Fan asked, “Are you still at the hospital?”
“Give me ten minutes, then?”
Cheng Xi agreed, and then decided on a place to meet. She packed up and started walking down the building’s stairs. At this time of the day, there were quite a large number of patients taking the elevator, so Cheng Xi instead took the stairs down. As she walked, she tried to call Shen Wei, but her phone was busy the entire time.
In front of the psychiatry building was an expansive carpark. As Cheng Xi walked to the entrance, she raised her head and found a black car parked on the opposite side. The car pulled up by her, and Lin Fan walked out.
Shen Wei’s call finally connected at this time, and the first thing Cheng Xi heard was her grumbling, “I kept calling you but you didn’t respond. Are you off work yet? Come over and eat… That heartless Lin Fan said that he would treat us, but just as we finished ordering, he ran off again… Hey, hey!”
Before Lin Fan could spot her, Cheng Xi retreated into the building once again, and then hid in an alcove as she sighed, “I got it.”
Shen Wei seemed displeased. “What did you get?”
“Nothing.” Cheng Xi smiled. “I don’t have time to go over, so enjoy your meal.”
Shen Wei got even more upset at those words. “Gosh, you too? Even after I visited you at the hospital today?”
“I’ll treat you next time.” She saw Lin Fan briskly walk into the building, stop by the side of the elevator, and then quietly wait in a noticeable spot.
Cheng Xi also stood where she was, watching him silently. Time passed by quickly; after their most recent reunion, she constantly felt like he had changed greatly. But after she looked at him more carefully, he actually hadn’t changed all that much; he was still that youth with a slight tinge of silliness, someone who would drop everything and rush over in a heartbeat.
Almost as if he could sense her gaze, Lin Fan suddenly turned his head around and noticed her standing behind him. After the glimmer of recognition passed, his face slowly morphed into a smile.
Even though he wasn’t as handsome as Lu Chenzhou, when he smiled, anyone who looked at him would feel his golden sunshine-like smile wash over them, making them feel warm and happy.
He walked over, a few minor hints of anxiety on his face. “Did you wait long?”
“No, I just got down.”
“About that, Shen Wei and the others left early, and so did my mom. Although she won’t be able to have dinner with you tonight, she said that next time, she will definitely catch up with you.”
Perhaps Lin Fan himself didn’t notice this habit of his—whenever he was nervous or trying to lie, he talked an abnormal amount.
Cheng Xi smiled. “Okay.”
Lin Fan became even more flustered from her simple response. His current behavior no longer reflected his calm demeanor that day at Shen Wei’s wedding. Right now, he actually gave Cheng Xi feel a sense of comfortable familiarity.
As a youth, Lin Fan and his family hadn’t been too well off. He had no father and lived alone with his mother. The mother and son pair lived quite a frugal life. The food at the school’s cafeteria wasn’t great, so all of the students there had brought their own lunches to school, and ate bits and pieces of everyone else’s food.
Lin Fan was the only student that never brought food from home; during lunch, he would always stand silently to one side. Cheng Xi brought her own food several times, but she stopped once she noticed his situation. After all, it was more fun to be thick-skinned and steal food from Rou and share it with Lin Fan.
In the end, Lin Fan was able to gather lots of food even without Cheng Xi’s help, because he had a habit of speaking whenever he received food, which would make Tian Rou laugh. She had once said to Cheng Xi that if giving Lin Fan food could make him, her idol, speak a few more words to him, then she would gladly do it.
Because of this, when Lin Fan started bringing his own food, his lunch box disappeared after just a few days.
Now, many years later, while he was sitting down with Cheng Xi and recounting the old times while having a meal together, Lin Fan asked her, “Back then, were you the one who incited Tian Rou to take my lunchbox away?”
Cheng Xi innocently replied, “No.”
He didn’t believe her, and looked at her suspiciously with squinting eyes. Cheng Xi laughed at the image, and then honestly said, “It’s true. Tian Rou really likes you.”
Lin Fan’s face blushed slightly. Barely glancing at her now, he shyly asked, “Then what about you?”
“Do you really like your boyfriend?”
Could she really say that he had improved compared to before? He hadn’t been able to bear his curiosity any longer and had ended up asking her after all. Back then, a similar situation had occurred; while they were studying, a male classmate had, of his own accord, announced that Cheng Xi was his girlfriend. Lin Fan didn’t even check with her regarding the truth of his words; when he saw the two of them walking together, he’d automatically assumed that they were indeed in a relationship. From that point onwards, he had started slowly drifting away from her.
“If I said that he wasn’t my boyfriend, would you believe me?”
Lin Fan hesitated for a moment before replying, “Yes.”
But Cheng Xi knew that he didn’t actually believe her, and she could understand that; after all, even an ordinary couple wouldn’t just kiss left and right so cavalierly……but she also couldn’t explain this situation because of doctor-patient confidentiality.
She looked him right in the eye. “You don’t have to force yourself to believe me. Honestly, if I were you, I probably wouldn’t believe myself either.”
Lin Fan’s expression became agonizing. “Ah, you’ve seen through me…… But the thought that someone loves and is protecting you isn’t bad, either.”
Cheng Xi smiled lightly, an unfathomable emotion wrapping around her heart.
It tasted of some disappointment, probably, and a dusting of sadness. Whether in the past or in the present, it seemed like he still couldn’t take that final step.
This was why she thought that love was actually like being trapped in an illusion; crazy people would go even crazier, but it could also make logical people even more logical.
After thinking about it, she didn’t want his misunderstanding to grow any deeper. “Unfortunately, I’ll be disappointing everyone because Lu Chenzhou and I really aren’t a couple. At the very least, our feelings haven’t reached that level. From my perspective, he’s just using me as a shield; one day, sooner or later, I’ll become useless to him and be set free.”
These were Cheng Xi’s actual thoughts. She didn’t expect that Lu Chenzhou had started to fall for her. To her, something like love at first sight couldn’t possibly exist for a man like him. So, she believed that just like how she was treating him as a patient to be observed, the converse, him treating her as an object of observation, was also very likely to be true.
Naturally, he was observing if she could, if she would help him.
Lin Fan got to the heart of what she was saying. “Freedom, you said? Did he do something that made you feel like you were not free?”
Cheng Xi couldn’t help but admire his sharpness. “Of all that I said, that word is the one that you paid the most attention to?”
Lin Fan laughed. Clearly, this time, his smile was tinged with genuine mirth. “I-”
He could only get one word out before Cheng Xi’s phone suddenly rang. Her phone was placed on the table, so when Lu Chenzhou’s name appeared on the screen, both of them could see it.
Lin Fan’s remaining words were like a burr in his throat. Cheng Xi caressed her forehead in annoyance. “I’m sorry. Let me take this call.”
She quickly picked up the phone, as calm as ever.
Lu Chenzhou was as direct as ever. “Where are you?”
Cheng Xi lifted up her cup and was about to drink some water. “Is something up?”
“I need to see you.” His inflection was surprisingly severe.
Cheng Xi instantly became more serious, thoughts flitting across her mind. Did something worse happen to Chen Jiaman, or did her father get into some sort of accident after rushing out like that today? Or, did Lu Chenzhou’s condition worsen? He’d even ignored his germophobia to kiss her today, after all.
She sat straight up and gave him her location. “Are you coming over now? What happened?”
And then Lu Chenzhou’s words made her realize that she should’ve stopped over-complicating things.
“Yes, I want to kiss you again.”