As Baldy and Lu Chenzhou were discussing Cheng Xi, Cheng Xi was also thinking about them.
The expression that Lu Chenzhou had made when he left made her feel a certain sense of unease, so she had tried calling him, but it went unanswered. So she had sent a text message, but that too was unread. Despite being a good psychiatrist, Cheng Xi didn’t know why Lu Chenzhou had suddenly up and left like that.
As she pondered the situation more, but still failed to understand why, Cheng Xi eventually gave up, turning around to clear the table. By the time she was done, it was almost time for her meeting at the hospital. Lin Fan was still not awake, so she left him a note and left her apartment.
By the time the meeting was over, it was nearly ten, and a few unread text messages had built up in her phone. Most of them were from her parents, who probably hadn’t yet gotten over what they had seen earlier. Her mother had warned her that she had to make a clean break with that dolt from before, that their family wouldn’t allow such a man as their son-in-law. Meanwhile, her father gently tried to persuade her, saying that she’d always been obedient and that he hoped she would think this matter through carefully without making her parents worry.
Essentially, their meaning was: be dignified, have some self-respect, and, most importantly, choose your boyfriend carefully!
Every time Cheng Xi heard her mom say that Lu Chenzhou was a dolt, she wanted to laugh. She believed that, if he had a choice, Lu Chenzhou definitely wouldn’t have met her parents without dressing properly; however, it was also true that he’d rather dress improperly than be dirty.
And now that they’d already seen his entire body, then...... they wouldn’t bother her about it in the future, right?
But even if she explained all this to her mother, she wouldn’t have listened. So, Cheng Xi decided not to say anything at all, only replying sincerely, “Alright, I know.”
But her parents seemed to be worried that they hadn’t pressured her enough, so they even called Cheng Yang, and she had a whole bunch of missed calls on her phone from him. Cheng Xi called him back and he immediately asked, “Just how did you provoke Mom last night? Why did she insist that I call you and persuade you right away? While growing up, wasn’t I the only one treated like this? When did you steal that away from me?”
He teased her ruthlessly.
“It’s a misunderstanding. Nothing happened.”
“Then you and that, that Lu Chenzhou… are you two broken up now?”
He actually knew Lu Chenzhou’s name, which surprised Cheng Xi immensely. “You know him?”
“Eh… he said it himself last time.” Cheng Yang then said fiercely, “Don’t change the topic. I still have to teach you the importance of choosing a proper boyfriend.” But then he chuckled, and said in a relaxed tone, “But if you really did marry him, it wouldn’t be that bad either. You’d be a rich young lady from a wealthy family, and then I’d get to use your connections.
Their conversation had devolved into meaningless drivel, and, with Cheng Xi just having received another call, she hung up.
When the call was over, Cheng Xi saw another message on her phone. Surprisingly, it was from Lu Chenzhou. She thought that he was going to explain to her why he had left hurriedly, but when she opened it, it turned out to merely be, “I want to hear you tell me a story.”
This wasn’t a difficult request, but what surprised her was his tone, very calm and without the sudden coldness that had accompanied his departure in the afternoon.
Of course, he wasn’t dispirited or sad either; this request felt like he purely wanted to listen to a story from her.
So Cheng Xi told him a story on the spot via voice message. It was a little story about a lamb and its friends. After the lamb encountered some danger, its usual friends ran away, and only a little dog had come to help it. Afterwards, those friends who had fled blamed the lamb for not telling them that she had been in danger, and only then did the small dog silently leave.
Once upon a time, this story had been an exam question for Cheng Xi, and even now, she had a strong impression of it. She also felt that it was an appropriate story for Lu Chenzhou—its motto was that friends didn’t need to stay together all the time; it was sufficient for them to stand up when you were in times of need.
Just like her. She didn’t need to be his partner, but she was willing to be someone who would sincerely help him.
After she sent the story over, Lu Chenzhou didn’t reply, and she didn’t ask him to. Having visited Chen Jiaman’s ward again out of habit, she returned home.
By then, Lin Fan had woken up. He didn’t leave, only tidying himself up and sitting back down on the sofa. When Cheng Xi entered, his expression was dark and gloomy, his gaze deep.
Cheng Xi didn’t seem to have noticed his unusual behavior, normally walking over and putting her bag down. “You’re finally awake! Do you feel alright? I left you some porridge in the kitchen. Did you eat it?”
Her tone was warm and calm. It reflected the perfect amount of concern, and would make anyone relax and feel very comfortable.
Lin Fan eased up and replied, “Yes, I ate it. It was very tasty.” His complexion wasn’t too good, his voice was hoarse and rough, and his gaze probed her carefully. “I’m sorry, I seem to have troubled you.”
“No.” Cheng Xi smiled, poured him a glass of warm water, and then sat down opposite him. “I’ve always thought that being able to vent your feelings when you’re bothered is a very healthy means of coping… Have a glass of water, your voice is really hoarse.”
Lin Fan thanked her again, took the glass, and drained it all in one gulp before drooping his head back down. “I’m sorry. I should have come here earlier, but at that time, I didn’t have the courage to face you, so I turned to alcohol to give me more courage. But, unfortunately, I drank too much.”
After having tempered himself alone overseas for so many years, his attitude was much more frank than before. On the other hand, Cheng Xi felt that this Lin Fan had lost some of the cuteness he had had in his youth.
She explained her thoughts frankly. Lin Fan was somewhat at a loss for words, and his first reaction was to laugh bitterly. “If hiding would have prevented all that from happening, then I wish I had hid.” He rubbed his face. “My mom. She… didn’t say anything overbearing, did she?”
“That’s good.” He lowered his head, his thumb anxiously pressing down on his palm. One could see that he still hadn’t calmed down inside, but he still said, “Thanks for telling me this beforehand. I was too shocked back then and didn’t dare believe it. But if there’s anything that you need me to do, I’ll do my best to help.”
“Okay. I won’t be modest then.” Cheng Xi smiled slightly. She actually could understand Lin Fan’s indecision, anger, and loathing. If Lin Fan’s mother and the drunken Lin Fan’s words were both true, then the traumatic experience that they had suffered at Chen Fuguo’s hands was more than sufficient to traumatize them for their entire lives. Just like his mother, perhaps what was most triggering to him was not Chen Jiaman or this incident itself, but rather that nightmarish period in the past.
Those who hadn’t experienced something similar for themselves could never understand how painful it had been.
She tried to change the topic to something more relaxing. “Would you like me to tell you about her?” After receiving his assent, she proceeded. “She draws very well. Do you want to see?”
Lin Fan actually didn’t have much interest in it, but after seeing her hopeful expression, he nodded.
Cheng Xi opened her phone and showed him the many drawings of Chen Jiaman that she had taken pictures of. Lin Fan originally just glanced at them, but as he looked, he couldn’t help but become entranced and take the phone.
“...She drew all this?”
“Yes. She doesn’t talk to anyone, but she really likes to draw. I heard that she never took any lessons, but look at this piece, and that one. Doesn’t she have tremendous talent?”
Lin Fan nodded. Even though he had studied the sciences, he still appreciated art and had even been a model at an art gallery when he was overseas, so he understood a bit of art.
Even though Chen Jiaman’s drawings were dark and gloomy, and her skills were quite inexperienced, her lines all flowed naturally to one another, and the feeling at the tip of her instruments seemed to explode from those lines, leading to a particularly eye-catching result.
This was no longer just mere talent; she could almost be considered a genius.
Cheng Xi finished looking at all of Chen Jiaman’s artwork with him. These pieces of art, which seemed like the horrifying truth in Chen Fuguo’s eyes, had instead led to a heartfelt resonance in Lin Fan.
It was because he had experienced these dark and terrifying experiences himself as well.
After he finished looking at all the drawings in Cheng Xi’s phone, Lin Fan’s feelings had returned to normal. This time, he said very seriously, “Thank you. I’ll take good care of her. As for my mother… I’ll persuade her somehow. No matter what, she’s still my sister.”
This time, he spoke much more firmly.
Cheng Xi gazed at him. “I know that this must be somewhat surprising for you, and I’m very happy that you’re responding in this manner. I’ll try my best to help her improve, at least to the point where she can live on her own, so that she won’t be a burden to anyone. In the early stages, however, you guys might have to invest more effort on her, because mental illnesses are unlike regular bodily ones. For this sort of illness, besides medication, what’s most important is familiar company and familial love. Curing such illnesses is a long and arduous process; I might be able to get her well enough to be released from the hospital, but I can’t promise that she won’t relapse in the future. At this time, she needs friends, and particularly family.”
“I know. It’s just that I was unable to accept it at the beginning. Don’t worry, I know what to do. She’s only fourteen, and her life is full of untapped potential. I will also do my best to help her.”
Cheng Xi smiled upon hearing Lin Fan’s declaration, her gaze as bright and clear as the pear blossoms blooming in April; her expression was pure white and radiant.
She stood very close to him, no longer like the person of his dreams who stood far away. Even though she knew of his private matters, no disdainfulness or hint of teasing showed on her face, and no pity either. She simply looked at him, with just her honest feelings, with a warm and gentle smile. Here sole presence made others feel content for no other reason at all.
He wanted to stay by her side, for the rest of time.
He remembered vaguely hearing in his alcohol-fuelled haze that she had said that she had broken up with Lu Chenzhou… Now sober, he was afraid that he had possibly misheard, so he wanted to verify it, and spoke up. “Hey.”
“Yes?” She replied with a lilt in her wonderfully pleasant voice as she looked at him seriously.
But before he could ask, her phone suddenly rang. She turned around to look for her phone, saying, “It could be from the hospital.”
In reality, it wasn’t from the hospital, but instead a call to find him. Lin Fan could tell because he heard her answer, “Yes, he’s with me… Alright, I’ll tell him to return immediately.”
It seemed that the person on the phone with her said something else, because she began looking a little exasperated.
After hanging up, she told him, “It was from Shen Wei. She said that your phone was off and that your mother was very worried about you.” As she said this, she stood up. “Come on, you need to go back home. I’ll walk down with you.”
She walked him down outside the residential area. Once they reached the lobby, Lin Fan began regretting it. Given how cold it was outside, he shouldn’t have let her come out with him. But he didn’t want to part with her, and he’d take advantage of anything just to stay with her a moment longer.
As the wind blew wildly, her cute little nose reddened immediately and her face turned as white as snow.
Lin Fan felt his heart blaze with an uncontrollable heat of passion.
“It should be that car.” She stood by the side of the road, looking into the distance.
His gaze, on the other hand, was focused solely on her. When the headlights got closer, he suddenly spread out both hands and hugged her tightly.
She was somewhat surprised and turned her head to look at him.
He ignored her reluctance, moved his face closer to her, and lightly kissed her cheek as he softly whispered, “I love you, Cheng Xi” into her ear.