Cheng Xi opened the door and Lin Fan entered, hugging her before saying, “I missed you so much. Even if I get mad in the future, I won’t ever ignore you again. It wasn’t as much a punishment for you, as it was one for me.” He then lowered his head and looked at the ingredients by her feet, smiling. “Steak? Do you need any help?”
But when he saw Cheng Xi’s look, he asked, “What’s the matter?”
Cheng Xi opened her mouth, but nothing came out.
Lin Fan released her. “Did something come up?”
This was the first time she had ever truly been at a loss for words. “Lin Fan,” She grasped his hands and strugglingly pushed out, “I’m sorry. I can’t have dinner with you today.”
Lin Fan chuckled lightheartedly. “You really scared me with your severe look and everything. It’s just a meal. What’s the big deal? Is Jiaman acting up again?”
“Then it’s the hospital, right? Don’t worry, I can cook too. I’ll send it over to you once it’s done, alright?”
After Lin Fan said this, he was about to grab the ingredients and start cooking when Cheng Xi stopped him again. “It’s not the hospital.” She exhaled and steeled himself. Originally, she had planned to tell him all the details about what was going on between her and Lu Chenzhou. But given the situation, while she couldn’t explain it right now, she also didn’t want to hide anything from him. “My professor just called me, saying that Lu Chenzhou’s ill. She’s not here, so she wants me to go and look after him.”
Lin Fan paused before asking, “Really? What illness?”
“A severe cold and a serious allergic reaction.”
Lin Fan smiled wryly. “Can you treat those things? As I recall, you’re a psychiatrist.”
“Lin Fan…… this isn’t about whether I can treat him or not. He got sick after leaving my place, and his allergic reaction also first started at my place. Thus, as my professor’s sponsor, and with her request, I really do have to go and see how he’s doing.”
“Is it really just that?”
Lin Fan looked at her, and Cheng Xi looked back at him, her gaze completely devoid of evasion or hesitation.
He finally released her. “Alright. Then go and come back quickly.”
“Alright.” She smiled and consoling said, “I’ll do my best to return early. If you’re hungry, then you should order something to eat. There’s a Chinese restaurant near my place that makes great beef dishes—I’ll give you their number later. If you’re bored, you can also read some books or watch TV. I’ll be gone for a bit and will be back quickly.”
Cheng Xi turned around to head out, but just as her hand touched the doorknob, Lin Fan hugged her from behind. “I really don’t want you to go. What should I do?”
She didn’t respond, and instead gently leaned into his caress, comfortingly rubbing the back of his hand as she did so.
She knew that he wasn’t someone who would endlessly pester her. Sure enough, after a short but intense hug, Lin Fan let go of her. Cheng Xi turned around, reached up on her tiptoes, and then kissed him lightly on the cheek. “I’m sorry.”
He shook his head and lightly caressed her lips as he lovingly replied, “Go. I’ll wait for you.” Cheng Xi smiled, eventually turning to leave.
Bathed by the bright and resplendent lamplight, Cheng Xi was waiting for a bus by the side of the road when she saw a roadside food cart selling scones. Even from a distance, the crispy, golden brown toasted scones emanated an enticing aroma.
It had been a very long time since Cheng Xi had last eaten something like that. She used to eat them every so often back when she was a senior in highschool. Whenever she studied late into the night, she would walk back home with Lin Fan. It was often so late that the roads would be empty. They would slowly stroll back, and at the halfway point, they would always see a young man pushing a food cart and selling scones. Cheng Xi would always buy two without fail, and then eat them side by side with Lin Fan, the two of them basking in the lovely scent of the scones.
Even long after she had graduated from high school, Cheng Xi would dream of their scent.
She walked over, bought quite a number in one go, took two out for herself, and then packed the rest away in a bag, which she gave to the security guard office nearby. “Could you please help me find someone to bring this back to my place?”
The security guard was familiar with Cheng Xi, so he readily agreed without any questions.
Cheng Xi then got on the bus with her twp scones. Cai Yi had sent her Lu Chenzhou’s address; it wasn’t the one in Donglai or the Lu’s manor. Rather, it led to a small area that had a very homely feeling.
It was a bit far away. When Cheng Xi left, it was only six. However, it was already eight when she arrived. She called Lu Chenzhou twice, but he didn’t pick up either time.
So with no other choice, Cheng Xi called Cai Yi, who said, “Give me a moment.”
After a while, Cheng Xi received a four-digit number with the description, “This is the passcode to his main door. He’s at home, and you can just enter. If the inner door is locked, then just bash it open. There’s no problem even if you break it.
Cheng Xi started sweating and nervously asked Cai Yi, “Is this really alright?”
“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I just called his grandfather, and he told me that Lu Chenzhou only started not picking up anyone’s calls recently.”
“Is there anyone else inside?”
“No. This is one of the quirks of our dear Director Lu; he doesn’t like there to be anyone besides him in his house. But I believe that you’ll definitely find a way to stay there.”
Cheng Xi was speechless. She didn’t know where Cai Yi had found so much confidence. Cheng Xi herself had no expectations because she didn’t know what Lu Chenzhou would end up doing.
Without any helpers, the stress was a bit overwhelming.
After exhaling slowly to calm herself down, Cheng Xi stepped forward. This area seemed low-profile, but the security was quite strict. Cheng Xi reported Lu Chenzhou’s name and house number, and even had to take out her ID to register her visit before she could obtain a temporary pass to enter the community.
Lu Chenzhou’s house was in the innermost region of the area. It was a small standalone bungalow with its own wall and backyard. As Cheng Xi walked up, she didn’t see a single light on inside. When she got to the door, she first pressed the doorbell, but no one answered. Then she used the passcode that Cai Yi had given her to open the front door.
After stepping inside, she found that the house was silent, and it was lit solely by a little wall lamp on the other side of the main corridor. As she followed the light, she found that the living room’s door was half-closed, which she then pushed open lightly.
It opened smoothly, so silent that even Cheng Xi was surprised. Luckily, the living room was bright and well lit. When the door opened, the first thing she heard was her own voice. “…Little fox, I like you!” And then she saw Lu Chenzhou, asleep on the sofa with his head tilted towards the sofa and a trailing hand touching the ground.
Her own unfamiliar voice reverberated inside the room. “…Then, a voice echoed from behind. ‘I like you too.’”
And then it kept repeating the same story about the little rabbit liking the little fox. She had recorded many stories inside that device; it seemed like this was the one that he liked best.
Cheng Xi stood at the door, hesitating about whether she should first enter and look around, or whether she should wait around for him to wake up. Suddenly, as if he had sensed something, Lu Chenzhou turned around. His jaw dragged on the sofa, but he still managed to look at the door.
Cheng Xi felt a sudden sense of anxiety overcome her. She explained, “Sorry, your door was unlocked…… May I enter?”
Lu Chenzhou maintained his original posture, not moving or speaking; he merely continued to watch her silently.
“Alright, I’ll assume that you’re ok with it.” Cheng Xi walked inside. Only when she got closer did she realize that he was visibly thinner, and his complexion was sallow. Nonetheless, he was still very tidy and clean-shaven.
He looked weak, as if he’d just woken up, and his eyes were still bleary with sleep. This created a bit of an innocent aura about him, stripping him of his usual aloof attitude and replacing it with a bit of cuteness instead.
He seemed like a big, sickly dog lying pitifully on the ground, waiting for his owner to pat him on the head.