If Cheng Xi could have predicted what would happen later, she probably wouldn’t have used those drawings to force Chen Jiaman’s father into action. Or, at the very least, she would have tried a gentler approach, so as to slowly uncover the past with him.
Just as the nurse had noted, Chen Jiaman was very gifted at drawing. Her drawings were filled with emotion. Cheng Xi had seen one, and just that single picture had made her feel as if her own heart had been dipped in a bitter brine.
The drawings that she had made in the darkness were filled with dark emotion. The main body of the drawing was composed of uneven, messy lines. But in the messiness, you could always see a hint of something else: anger, despair, and a sense of helplessness.
The nurses said that her drawings were likely of ghosts and malicious spirits, but Cheng Xi knew that that interpretation was false. Chen Jiaman was drawing the world as she saw it: ugly, dismal, and corrupt. Compared to a flower by the roadside, even a maggot in a coffin would be cuter.
And just as Cheng Xi knew this, so too did Chen Jiaman’s father.
After seeing those drawings, he left without saying a single word. Cheng Xi didn’t question him.
She continued to stay by Chen Jiaman’s side in the evenings and through the night, the period when she was most active. For this reason, after Cheng Xi finished her work in the clinic, she had applied for a month’s worth of night shifts that the other doctors were all too happy to hand over. Her personality was serious, and once a patient was handed over to her, she felt that she should do as much as she could to cure them.
And she hadn’t wasted her efforts in vain, because, after almost a month since Cheng Xi had started accompanying her every night, Chen Jiaman finally responded to her.
There were no signs that it would happen that day. As Cheng Xi entered, Chen Jiaman had ignored her as usual. As Cheng Xi drew and talked to her, she didn’t respond either. Honestly, Cheng Xi had become somewhat disappointed at that point, and was planning to adjust her strategy for the longer term. However, she was so tired that day that she fell asleep by a corner of the wall again. In the middle of the night, she suddenly woke up, roused by movement to her side. When she opened her eyes, she saw Chen Jiaman half-kneeling beside her. Under the dim light, her eyes gleamed bright, just like the eyes of a little animal.
And then she felt something on her neck, something very sharp. She realized that it was most likely the drawing pen that she had given to Chen Jiaman, whose nib was sharp enough to be used as a weapon.
Behind her, the door opened. The doctors and nurses on duty had realized that something was wrong and rushed in. As the door opened, light leaked into the room. However, the ones who entered were still careful enough to not rush in like a crowd of bees. The nurse on duty was the first to poke her head in, and she slowly called out, “Dr. Cheng.”
Cheng Xi wasn’t going to die from being struck by a pen; she was more scared of startling Chen Jiaman.
Seeing this, the nurse didn’t come in, but she didn’t leave either. Everyone just stood at the door and watched them alertly.
Chen Jiaman didn’t seem to notice any of the commotion at the door. She just continued to watch Cheng Xi with all her attention, the tip of her pen slowly sliding across Cheng Xi’s neck as it traced her artery up and down.
Cheng Xi was afraid even of swallowing her saliva. She looked up at her, and then softly called out her name. “Chen Jiaman.” Softly, again. “Chen Jiaman.”
The pen on Chen Jiaman’s hand finally stopped moving. She listened for a while, and then looked at her.
Cheng Xi tried very hard to relax, and made her voice as soft and warm as she possibly could. “Do you want to listen to a story? Shall I tell you a story? There was once a girl named Chen Jiaman. She was very scared of the darkness. In a pitch-black house, she yelled out, ‘Is anyone there? Please speak to me. I’m scared, and it’s too dark in here.’”
“That’s not right.” Chen Jiaman suddenly spoke up.
Cheng Xi stopped breathing. She almost thought that she had misheard, but just a moment later, she heard her say, “That’s not right, it’s a little rabbit.”
Cheng Xi smiled, and lightly replied, “Yes, I’m sorry. It’s a little rabbit. A little rabbit was scared of the dark, who yelled out in a pitch-black room……”
She retold the entire story from the very beginning. Chen Jiaman listened very attentively. The pen nib next to her throat made Cheng Xi very uncomfortable, but she didn’t move, almost as if she wasn’t cognizant of it.
After finishing the story, she asked Chen Jiaman, “This place is so dark. Are you scared?”
“No,” she said, then quietly shushed Cheng Xi. “Be softer. Don’t wake them.”
“Ghosts, evil. Very evil ghosts.”
“Who… are they?”
“Ghosts, there. So many of them.” Chen Jiaman knelt by her ear, started muttering “so many” multiple times in quick succession, and then finally let go of Cheng Xi while shivering. She climbed back into the bed, sat down, and started ceaselessly drawing again.
This seemed to be the start of the barrier between them breaking down. When Cheng Xi entered her ward again the next night, Chen Jiaman let her stand even closer to her. Occasionally Chen Jiaman would even talk to her. When she finished drawing and Cheng Xi asked if she could see it, she would even show her the drawings. Her antics, very reminiscent of a little girl sharing her secrets, made Cheng Xi’s heart ache and her mouth sigh with sorrow.
After that day, Chen Jiaman’s father never visited again. Despite the arduous task ahead of them, the police were also making progress little by little. They had found some new information and were following up on it now.
Everything seemed to be progressing in the right direction, but her perilous situation that day eventually made its way to the head of the department. First, her head came to talk with her, and then the director. In the end, Cheng Xi wasn’t able to avoid her fate of being brought into their office “for tea.”
Her head called her reckless. ”Don’t you know that she’s considered a dangerous patient? And you dared to stay in the same ward as her without taking any precautions?”
The director, meanwhile, even brought her professor into the mix. “She was already off the beaten path, but you, you’re even further off than she was. What can I say!?”
Cheng Xi simply sat and nodded at the appropriate moments. Using one of her colleague’s favorite catchphrases, she said, “I’ll admit it when I’m wrong, but I’ll never regret it.”
Because she had broken standard protocol, Cheng Xi was criticized by the whole department, and even had to reflect on her actions during a department meeting. But to her, if this was the price to have a breakthrough in Chen Jiaman’s illness, then it was a paltry price to pay.
After Cai Yi found out, she called her, and, after hearing her thoughts, could only smile and say, “Not bad, you’re growing quickly. As a psychiatrist, you certainly can’t use the same treatment for everyone. If mental illnesses could all be solved by tying the patients up, giving them shots, and feeding them drugs, then what would be the use of us psychiatrists? All you would need would be some strong guards at that point. Ignore those people. They’re just scared of having to deal with responsibility. But-” As Cai Yi said this, her tone grew more serious. “Your behavior is still too dangerous. You can’t just put yourself in dangerous situations like this either.”
Cheng Xi nodded. “Yes, I understand. I won’t do it next time.”
“You sound very insincere.” Cai Yi shook her head.
Cheng Xi didn’t dare say anything more.
Cai Yi relented and said, “Fine, I’m not trying to criticize you. I just want to tell you that being a doctor isn’t like being an academic. In your eyes, your behavior might just be you trying your best to treat an illness. But in other people’s eyes, it’s easily seen as a shortsighted action of someone pushing ahead while disregarding danger. You’re still young and have a bright future ahead—the road of a doctor is very long, so walk steadily and don’t let unnecessary things trip you up.”
Cheng Xi noted Cai Yi’s advice down seriously.
Cai Yi smiled. “It’s just a little piece of advice from my end. I’ll be happy as long as you keep it in mind. Actually, the reason I called you in today was to tell you this: Lu Chenzhou’s grandfather’s birthday is tomorrow, and they’re quite serious about inviting you. Do you have any spare time to attend?”
After thinking a bit, Cheng Xi said, “This is a bit improper, isn’t it?” She had earlier asked Cai Yi to clarify to them her situation with Lu Chenzhou, and it seemed that his grandparents had accepted the truth and understood Cheng Xi’s worries. Thus, they had indeed stopped applying stress on Lu Chenzhou by bringing up marriage in front of him. As a result, she felt somewhat inappropriate by accepting this invite from them at this time.
Cai Yi replied, “Then it’s up to you. The two of them haven’t given up yet, but it’s also fine if you don’t go.”
Cheng Xi wasn’t planning on going, but the next day, Lu Chenzhou came over himself to fetch her. Recently, he had been travelling abroad for work, whereas Cheng Xi worked at night and slept during the day. This all meant that she hadn’t seen him for quite a few days. When she saw him for the first time in a while, she even felt slightly uncomfortable—the key issue being that he seemed to have gotten even more handsome. Or perhaps, the sun wasn’t so bright in the winter, so he was turning even more paler.
He was originally quite handsome; his lips were thin like an elegant wood carving, his nose high and prominent, and his eyes like jet-black ink. When his skin paled even more, it accentuated his refined features to the point that he looked almost like a work of art.
But, as usual, he was still cool and composed, and his tone was hard enough to pound someone into paste. “Let’s go.”
Cheng Xi asked, “Where to?”
When she repeated her question, he said, “You’re my girlfriend. How can you not attend my grandfather’s birthday celebration?”
Despite the fact that she had cleared things up with Lu Chenzhou’s family, she clearly would never be able to clarify the situation with Lu Chenzhou himself.