Lin Fan looked at Cheng Xi. She appeared to be calm, impassively analyzing everything with neither sadness nor disappointment.
He couldn’t help himself from asking, “Then, what about you? Did you really love me?”
Cheng Xi didn’t respond.
“You never liked me either, right?” He suddenly felt that this realization might be harder to bear than the fact that the Cheng Xi he truly loved was just his childhood memory. “When you said all those things, were you lying to me? About how you were only his shield. But actually, I’m your shield, aren’t I? You love him, but the difference in your social standings made you hesitant of accepting him. So, you used me……”
“Lin Fan!” Cheng Xi had to stop him there. She looked him squarely in the eye. “We’ve known each other for so many years. Don’t you know what kind of person I am?”
“Then why can’t you give me another chance?” He buried his face in his hands. “Why must you analyze everything so coldly and logically? Cheng Xi, we never even had a good start.”
Even before their relationship could properly start, a third party had already been thrown between them.
Lin Fan knew this, and the only reason Cheng Xi hadn’t mentioned it was because she wanted to preserve both their dignities. In the end, they were the ones who knew each other the best, so all he was hoping for was another chance from her. But rather than wait for a reply, Lin Fan had already gotten up and was preparing to leave.
Cheng Xi didn’t send him out.
After he left, she remained sitting there, frozen in the same posture for an indeterminable amount of time. Only when her sweat had evaporated and her body gone chilly did she bathe and sleep.
The next morning, Cheng Xi woke up and went to work as usual, running into Dr. Su at the hospital gates. She had on minimal makeup and was wearing a tan overcoat that fluttered in the breeze with her steps. Despite still being somewhat thin, she looked full of vitality.
Clearly, she had already moved on from her divorce.
Upon seeing Cheng Xi, Dr. Su said, “You don’t look too good.”
Cheng Xi rubbed her face tiredly as she replied, “I didn’t sleep well last night.”
Cheng Xi choked out of surprise.
Dr. Su smiled and patted her shoulder. “In return for last time, I’ll accompany you for a night.”
“Thanks, I might take you up on that.”
After she stepped into the elevator, Cheng Xi carefully inspected her reflection on the elevator walls. Besides her dark eyebags, she couldn’t identify any trace that she had gone through a breakup.
But it was true that she wasn’t feeling too good.
As Cheng Xi made her usual rounds, when she got to Chen Jiaman, she noticed that Chen Jiaman was speaking far less than usual. Perplexed, Cheng Xi turned off the recording device and sat there, looking at her dazedly. Then, Chen Jiaman raised her head to look at her.
Cheng Xi belatedly realized that something had changed.
That was the first time that Chen Jiaman had ever looked someone in the eye after her illness. Her gaze carried a very careful doubt within it; Cheng Xi maintained her posture without moving, not shifting her gaze or posture even a little.
It felt as if the air around them had congealed. Only after a while did Cheng Xi finally hear a somewhat low and hoarse voice pierce the silence. “Aren’t you going to talk?”
Cheng Xi lightly replied, “What do you want me to talk about?”
Chen Jiaman thought for a moment before replying in an equally light tone. “The little rabbit.”
The little rabbit was the protagonist of all of Cheng Xi’s stories; no matter which story she told, there would always be a little rabbit in it. After hearing Chen Jiaman’s request, Cheng Xi finally released a pent up breath: her persistence had finally paid off! Chen Jiaman had gotten used to her voice, her company, and the little rabbit in her stories.
So, Cheng Xi told her a story, a brand new story. “There was once a little rabbit, a very cute rabbit. She had snowy white fur and big beautiful eyes. Everyone who saw her immediately fell in love with her. She rarely went out because her grandmother told her that obedient children didn’t carelessly go outside as there were bad people in the streets. So, the little rabbit never left her home. But as she grew up, her desire to see the outside world also grew; she wanted to make friends. And one day, she finally couldn’t resist the temptation anymore.”
When Cheng Xi reached this point in the story, she stopped. Chen Jiaman was hugging herself tightly with both hands while her small body was curled up in a corner. It seemed like she was trying very hard to prevent something.
Afraid that Chen Jiaman wouldn’t be able to accept the story, Cheng Xi revised the ending. “But the little rabbit was too afraid. She only stepped out a little before running back in. She breathed in the outside air through a slightly ajar door and told herself that she had already gone very far, and that she could see the horizons ahead.” After finishing, Cheng Xi asked Chen Jiaman, “Do you think that the little rabbit went far enough?”
Chen Jiaman didn’t answer, only retreating further into her blankets, just like that little rabbit who had retreated back into her home.
But Cheng Xi knew that Chen Jiaman had already cracked open the door, and that perhaps not long after, she would take her first step outside.
Cheng Xi was very happy with Chen Jiaman’s progress, and she called Lin Fan as soon as she left her ward. Only when the phone started ringing did she remember that they had broken up last night. But since the call had already connected, Cheng Xi didn’t hang up.
Lin Fan picked up very quickly. The eagerness and indistinct excitement in his voice was so palpable that it made Cheng Xi feel a little awkward, but she forged on and asked, “Are you free now? I have something to tell you.”
“Go for it.”
“It’s about Chen Jiaman—she just responded to me.” Cheng Xi tried to calmly and professionally describe Chen Jiaman’s response. When she was done, she concluded by saying, “If her condition continues to improve, then she’ll officially be in the recovery phase. At this point, if you have time, then please visit her more often.”
Lin Fan had listened attentively throughout her report. Only when she was finished did he bitterly say, “Did you know? I thought just now that……” What he thought, he didn’t say. Instead, he mockingly laughed at himself in a low tone. “Evidently it was wrong for me to have hoped for something else. If I let go of Chen Jiaman and stopped caring about her, then would you be disappointed in me?”
Cheng Xi seriously responded, “I wouldn’t be disappointed because she isn’t your responsibility.”
“And your personal opinion?”
Cheng Xi remained silent, taking a while before saying, “I think that you can take on this responsibility.”
As for Lin Fan’s mother’s, even ignoring her attitude, her ideology alone would be problematic. In any case, Cheng Xi didn’t think that it would be good for her to take care of Chen Jiaman.
Lin Fan smiled wryly as he said, “Alright. If this is your last request to me, then I’ll definitely handle it with care.”
Then he hung up.
It was this conversation that triggered Cheng Xi’s pain. A faint and subtle pain dwelled deep in her heart, and this conversation was like a small dagger that had pricked her heart. From that small hole, pain was flowing out with each heartbeat, infusing itself into her every breath.
She took a deep breath.
At least she was so preoccupied at work that she could ignore it; she didn’t have any time to register her emotional pain before she was called away for a pre-surgery consultation. Afterwards, it was time for Lu Chenzhou’s daily treatment.
The ward he was staying in was the best in Renyi. It was quiet and comfortable, and felt less like staying in a hospital room and more like staying at a very nicely furnished rehabilitation resort.
The room was a suite, with a living room outside and the ward inside. When Cheng Xi entered the living room, she saw the nurse that the Lu family had hired sitting there. Meanwhile, she could also hear a voice from inside the ward that was clearly Baldy’s. In an agitated tone, he was complaining about something. “......it’s actually your Dr. Cheng? Damn, why didn’t you tell me anything?”
Cheng Xi was somewhat curious, as she was not entirely sure what they were talking about that would involve her. She wanted to listen in some more, but the nurse spotted her and had already stood up to greet her. “Dr. Cheng.”
Within the ward, Baldy seemed to have suffered a big fright, as he suddenly started coughing violently.