When Cheng Xi walked out of the main lobby of the hospital, it was already very late. She was unbelievably tired, both physically and mentally, and the hand that had been bitten by Chen Jiaman had been throbbing this whole time. It probably wouldn’t recover anytime soon.
She clutched her arm, and just as she was about to start squeezing it to try to relieve the pain, a person suddenly appeared in front of her.
She stopped. “Lin Fan? You never left?”
Cheng Xi didn’t know what to say; perhaps it was because of her grief and indignation, but she had completely forgotten about him.
But Lin Fan couldn’t help a smile from creeping onto his face. “I’m kidding.” His voice was warm, almost tender. “The banquet at the Lu household just ended. I was a bit worried about you, so I came to see how you were doing.”
Cheng Xi paused, a slight desire to cry suddenly welling up in her heart. It was at this moment that she realized that she, too, felt wronged and unwell.
“I want to drink. Will you accompany me?”
And so, the two went to go drink at an alley near the hospital. There was a famous night market in that area. At this time of the night, the yellow streetlights illuminated a simple and quaint street market suffused with a wonderful smell.
In the cold night, Cheng Xi’s white breaths marked the air. As the warmth from her breath dissipated, a slender, long arm reached out towards her.
In its palm was a few offered sweets, a bunch of laughing squirrels wrapped in colorful wrappers. “For you.”
Cheng Xi took one of the squirrels. “This sort of candy is so hard to find nowadays. You…”
Lin Fan smiled. “As long as you keep an eye out, you’ll always be able to find some.” In fact, it had really been quite difficult for Lin Fan to find the candies. After leaving the hospital, he’d driven aimlessly through the streets, trying to satisfy his sudden craving for candy. And perhaps only the cloying sweetness of that childhood candy could make him temporarily forget about the bitterness that had tainted his heart and mouth.
He spent the whole night searching, but when he finally found them for sale, he suddenly lost the desire to eat them. It was possible that the only reason he couldn’t forget about them was solely because she had always liked them.
Without her, even the sweetest thing in the world would taste bitter.
Cheng Xi understood the meaning of his words. She looked at him, her expression somewhat conflicted.
“What is it?”
“The way you say it makes me feel like I’m misunderstanding something.”
“Misunderstanding that you like me.” She laughed with a relaxed tone, but her actions belay her palpitating heart.
She didn’t want to play guessing games with him anymore; some things were better said early and outright.
Luckily, Lin Fan didn’t disappoint her this time. He poured himself a glass of wine and drank it all in one gulp before saying, “Yes, I do like you, and I have for quite a while. Ever since high school, I’ve always thought that it would be wonderful if you were to be my wife.”
He looked at her, his voice calm, his expression tinged with relief.
Cheng Xi gaped.
Lin Fan chuckled bitterly at her response. “Do you think that I’m overestimating my own capabilities, that I’m a toad trying to get together with a swan? You’re pretty, outstanding, kind, generous, and considerate—everyone likes you, but what about me?” He clasped his hands together and buried his face in his hands out of grief. “I don’t have a good background or a complete family, and mine even has an odd and reclusive temperament. But even despite all this, Cheng Xi, I still want to love you. I worked hard and studied even harder, leaving everything to go abroad in order to make myself a better person, a person more compatible with you. But I always seem to be late, always unable to catch up to you…”
Cheng Xi grasped his hand lightly. He didn’t continue, and instead raised his head.
Her expression was serious. “Did you hear what Tian Rou said at the spa after Shen Wei’s wedding?”
He suddenly became anxious. “......Yes. I know that she was joking.”
“She’s not joking.” Cheng Xi laughed as she explained, “You were truly my idol.” Of course, that was back when she was a young girl. During her adolescence, when she was melancholy and moody, it was particularly easy to become infatuated with a youth like Lin Fan, whose pride and aloofness, though self-abasing, made him stand out from the crowd.
“So, please don’t think of yourself like that, okay? You’re wonderful.”
Lin Fan’s face reddened quickly, and his still gaze quickly turned bright. “Cheng Xi,” he murmured.
“Did you know? I’ve waited for ten years for you to tell me you like me.”
Lin Fan gazed at her, and after processing her words, his heart swelled up and he grasped her hand out of disbelief. “Really?”
“Yes, it’s true. Even though it might be useless to say this now, but you really don’t have to disparage yourself. You’ve always been great.”
He looked at her carefully. Whenever she spoke, her face carried a light smile, making him recall the year he’d failed an exam. His teachers were shocked and his mother scolded him, but only Cheng Xi smiled and told him, “You look particularly handsome when you pay attention in class.”
Even after so many years had passed, she hadn’t changed at all, and was still as pretty and kind as ever. As long as he stayed by her side, he would always feel a warmth permeate his body.
He wanted to hug her tightly in his arms.
This sort of feeling seemed to grow more intense the closer he got to her. A despicable thought enticed him to snatch her away. He grasped her hand tightly and said, “How could your words mean nothing to me? Won’t you let me love you?”
He looked at her breathlessly, his gaze fiery, his passion almost enough to melt her.
Cheng Xi stalled again for a moment. At this moment, she really wanted to drop everything and say yes, but she couldn’t. At least, not until she had treated Lu Chenzhou.
She took her hand back. “As you know, I can’t promise this to you right now.”
“Because…… of him?”
Cheng Xi nodded.
“Do you love him?”
Cheng Xi couldn’t nod.
Lin Fan’s eyes sparkled again. “Then I’ll wait for you.” His gaze and tone were resolute.
Cheng Xi couldn’t express the emotion rampaging through her heart at that moment. Perhaps happiness was the closest, but a bit of incomprehensible anxiety was also mixed into it.
“Don’t feel pressured. Liking you is my own matter. Even if you never come back to me, I won’t blame you.”
His tone was already relaxed again. Cheng Xi knew that some of her emotions had to have leaked out for him to behave like this, and she couldn’t help but sigh. “I don’t want to string you along. It’s just…..”
“I know, you want me to be happy.” He smiled and comfortingly said, “Don’t worry. I’ll certainly get better. Actually, even before I came back, I thought that you might have already fallen in love with someone else, become married, or even have had children. The current situation now couldn’t be better, so I don’t care what the matter is between you and him. As long as you haven’t fallen in love with him, and as long as you’re willing to give me a chance, then I’ll keep waiting for you.
Cheng Xi stared at him. He smiled, poured both of them a new glass of wine, and changed the topic. “Is your hand alright? You’re injured, so you should stop drinking after this glass. If you still want to drink more, then I’ll drink it all for you.”
Cheng Xi didn’t actually want to drink anymore. She couldn’t tolerate alcohol well; one or two cans of beer was alright, but any more and she was afraid that she would get drunk.
Given what had happened last time when she got drunk with Lu Chenzhou, she had since become very sensitive about drinking too much.
She raised her glass. “This glass is to welcome you back, as well as to thank you.”
“Thank me for what?”
“For drinking with me.”
Actually, it was also to thank him for his sudden confession, and it served to give her a sense of closure as well.
Lin Fan clinked glasses with her. “No need to thank me. Whenever you need me, I’ll be there for you.”
Cheng Xi finished her glass in a single gulp. Drinking cold beer next to a warm stove in the brisk chill of the night gave her an ineffable pleasure. As the cold liquid slipped down her throat, her whole body felt alive.
She stopped drinking, and he didn’t coax her to continue to do so. The two sat amiably, and as they chatted about their youth, their hearts became bright and spacious once more.
Perhaps it was because of her drinking, but that night, Cheng Xi slept warmly and had sweet dreams even without the heater.
In the morning, she woke up to the sound of her phone ringing. She was still muddleheaded, and it took her quite a while before she became clear-headed to pick it up.
She lazily answered her phone. On the other end, a foreign, severe voice asked, “Are you Dr. Cheng Xi from Renyi Hospital?”
“Nice to meet you. I’m a police officer from XX Town, Officer Zhang. Last night, we had a nasty poisoning incident. The suspect has since been resuscitated and woken up, but he requested to see you before he would cooperate. Are you free?”
XX Town was where Chen Jiaman’s house was.
Cheng Xi asked doubtfully, “Who’s the suspect?”
“Chen Fuguo. He said that you were the doctor responsible for his daughter, Chen Jiaman.”