Cheng Xi didn’t hold any hopes of obtaining any useful information from this conversation. After all, given how much younger Lu Chenming was compared to Lu Chenzhou, it was very likely that he wouldn’t know anything about how Lu Chenzhou’s mental condition had developed.
But, unexpectedly, he actually did.
And he told her everything. “The first person who ever called my brother a ‘cold-hearted monster’ was my grandmother, and it was for what he did when my mother died. My brother was by her side when it happened. He didn’t call the police or shout for help—all he did was watch her slowly burn to death.
Cheng Xi was shocked and speechless. “……”
Perhaps it was because she didn’t expect to hear something like this, but Cheng Xi had a hard time believing what Lu Chenming was saying. But then she noticed that Lu Chenming’s tone was unusually calm, as if he were talking about something utterly unrelated to him.
She couldn’t help herself from asking, “How old were you then?”
So he was so young that he didn’t have any recollections of his mother. No wonder he could talk about her passing away so calmly.
“Before your mother passed away, did your brother have a good relationship with him?”
“My grandmother said that my mother was always very busy with her work.”
If she were extremely busy, then she could have neglected her child, which would have led to the relationship between the two of them not being particularly good.
“What about your father?”
“Hmm?” This time, Lu Chenming’s expression went completely blank, as if Cheng Xi had asked a very strange question.
Lu Chenzhou’s father clearly didn’t interact with his two children very much either. But at that moment, a knock on the door interrupted Cheng Xi’s chain of questions, forcing her to walk over to the door. It was Cheng Yang, and he had come back after he changed his clothes. He glanced inside the apartment as he asked, “Is Lu Chenming still around?”
Cheng Yang clicked his tongue in annoyance, swallowing the words he was about to say. Then, he entered after taking his shoes off. With Cheng Yang around, it wasn’t appropriate to ask Lu Chenming about his brother anymore. So, without anything else to do, Cheng Xi went to prepare some food instead.
As she busied about in the kitchen, she checked the veracity of Lu Chenming’s words. When she googled the keywords “Donglai fire,” she eventually found a link to a very old article titled, “Donglai Pharmaceuticals burned down in a conflagration, killing one researcher.”
There was a significant discrepancy between the headlines and what Lu Chenming had said. This inconsistency almost made Cheng Xi want to talk to Lu Chenzhou’s grandparents again.
But then, she suddenly heard Cheng Yang ask Lu Chenming, “Is your brother crazy?”
Lu Chenming didn’t know that his brother was on Cheng Xi’s side, so he quietly defended Lu Chenzhou. “My brother isn’t crazy. He’s really smart.”
“Smart my ass! If he were really that smart, then why would he be so petty? Did you know that he reported my sister to her hospital? Does he think he’s still in kindergarten, playing around and reporting people like that?”
Lu Chenming was very surprised by Cheng Yang’s accusation, but he continued stalwartly defending his brother. “My brother wouldn’t do something like that. He likes…… Professor Cheng.”
Cheng Yang chuckled mirthlessly. “Kid, would I lie to you? My sister’s already been suspended from work, alright?” He then patted Lu Chenming’s head again. “You too—why’re you fighting with him over someone? With so many fish in the ocean, if you can’t find anyone you like, then you can like me. I’m quite good, aren’t I?” He patted his chest confidently.
Black streaks marred Cheng Xi’s forehead as she overheard all this from the kitchen. She wasn’t able to stop herself from calling out, “Brother, can you come over for a moment?” as she sharpened her knife threateningly.
Cheng Yang ran over, innocently saying to Cheng Xi, “Look at me! I’m cooperating with you and doing my best to make Lu Chenming like me.” He stole a mouthful of food, and as he chewed, he made a coy expression at her, quietly asking, “Did Lu Chenming get befuddled again and try to snatch you away from his brother, thus angering him and provoking him into reporting you? Don’t worry. I’ll make sure that he’ll understand that the one he truly loves is me, not you. He’s only holding onto you because he’s just afraid that our families will oppose our being together.”
Cheng Xi had no response. “……”
She didn’t even know how these ludicrous thoughts had formed in her brother’s head. All she could do was grab her forehead and miserably ask, “Can you stop causing trouble?”
Cheng Yang glared at her. “What do you mean, ‘causing trouble?’ Even if you don’t end up marrying Lu Chenzhou, you can’t let him tarnish your reputation like that. I’m hoping that my sister will become a legendary doctor.”
She was touched…… but she also wanted to hit him at the same time.
Cheng Xi could only lower her voice and quietly say, “The reason why he reported me isn’t related to Lu Chenming at all.”
“Ah!” Cheng Yang was shocked by this reveal. “So he’s really trying to raise you like a pet? Crap, when did Lu Chenzhou become so tasteless?”
……Honestly, she wasn’t sure if raising one’s girlfriend like a pet was more “tasteless” than snatching one’s younger brother’s girlfriend away.
Cheng Xi sighed softly. “It’s neither of those two. I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry, and don’t try to fix this yourself. I’ll take care of everything.”
Cheng Yang looked askance at Cheng Xi, clearly not believing her words. But he still reluctantly agreed. “Alright, I’ll give you some time to work things out then.” But then, afraid that she would be too stressed, he added on, “But even if you don’t, it’s fine. There’s always another path forward. At worst, we’ll just start our own practice, right?”
Cheng Xi involuntarily smiled when she heard her brother’s sweet words. Then, when she saw that her mother had transferred funds to her bank account, a warm and fuzzy feeling welled up inside her, sweeping all the gloominess that had accumulated over the last few days away.
Her family was her stronger support pillar; with family members like these, she really didn’t need to worry or be frustrated at all.
So when they ate dinner, the three of them did so happily, and Cheng Xi even showed them the drawing that Chen Jiaman had given her. She hadn’t looked at it very carefully before, but when she held it in her hands now, it felt somewhat strange. Perhaps it was because she had become used to her darker style, and her producing such a bright and warm piece of art felt unusual.
When Cheng Xi studied it more closely, however, she felt that this drawing was more complex than it appeared. Although it clearly depicted a beautiful and sunny scene, it gave her a surprisingly strong feeling of melancholy.
While Cheng Xi tried to analyze the emotions that Chen Jiaman was trying to portray with this painting, Lu Chenming suddenly muttered, “It’s a really good painting. You could probably submit it to an exhibition.”
“Hmm?” Cheng Xi turned around. “What exhibition?”
“An a-art exhibition. It’d probably win a prize.” Lu Chenming had become nervous again, perhaps because Cheng Xi’s gaze was too intense.
His words reminded Cheng Xi of Chen Jiaman’s peculiar situation. She would probably find it too difficult to go back to school again, or even to maintain a normal job. Why not work as a freelance artist?
Cheng Xi put this thought aside for when she next saw Chen Jiaman. Then, she smiled at Lu Chenming and said, “Hmm, thanks for reminding me. Chenming, you’re really smart.”
Lu Chenming blushed a bright red when he heard her praise, his eyes glittering.
After a bit more idle chatter, Cheng Yang left with Lu Chenming in tow. As they left, Cheng Xi gave Lu Chenzhou’s wallet and phone to Lu Chenming. “If you see your brother, please give him these things.”
She also handed him a sealed bag; Lu Chenming couldn’t figure out what was inside, and he looked at her quizzically.
But Cheng Xi didn’t explain herself.
She had also left a note for Lu Chenzhou in his wallet. If he saw it, then perhaps…… he’d contact her?
But in reality, Lu Chenzhou never contacted her. During this period, the hospital also tried to contact him, but the response they got was the same as Cheng Xi’s. “He’s out on a business trip and hasn’t returned yet.”
Cheng Xi even personally went to Donglai Hotel to look for him, but she wasn’t successful.
Since Lu Chenzhou’s report was now unverifiable, Cheng Xi could only be suspended indefinitely. With her newfound free time, she found a friend and learned more about upcoming art competitions, and they even found out about the exhibition that Lu Chenming had mentioned.
It was a national-level art exhibition. During the exhibition, there was a section where a panel would select the best young and upcoming artists and artworks; if Chen Jiaman were able to win such a prize, it’d undoubtedly be beneficial for her future.
Her friend sent pictures of Chen Jiaman’s drawing to all the professionals she knew, and they were all shocked that Chen Jiaman had produced such a high quality without formally studying under anyone. Their comments were all along the lines of, “Although the drawing style’s a bit unpolished, it’s full of emotions. It’s worth submitting it to the exhibition.”
Cheng Xi was very happy for Chen Jiaman, but she couldn’t do this on her behalf without her knowledge. After considering her options for a moment, she chose not to call Lin Fan’s mother, and instead directly called Lin Fan.
Lin Fan was somewhat surprised to be called by her. “I thought that he would have disallowed any further contact between the two of us…… In any case, Jiaman’s back in the hospital, but not at Renyi. That wonderful fiancée of yours helped my mother contact your professor, Cai Yi, and she’s been transferred to her lab. I couldn’t stop her……” His voice was low and soft as he forlornly said, “Thank you for letting me know how weak and powerless I am.”
After saying those words, Lin Fan hung up. A dark silence clouded Cheng Xi’s heart. It was so quiet that all she could hear the movements of the wind outside.