The unexpected sight of feet underneath her car frightened Cheng Xi so much that her heart almost stopped from the shock.
For a moment, Cheng Xi even thought that she was so inexperienced at driving that she just hadn’t noticed it when she ran someone over. But as she was about to start sweating buckets, the mysterious pair of legs suddenly retracted, and a face appeared where the legs had been, a female face with a particularly serious expression. “Insolence! How dare you not kneel down upon seeing your princess?”
Cheng Xi was once again struck speechless.
Luckily, Qin Shiya had heard the commotion and ran over. When she arrived, she immediately recognized the person underneath Cheng Xi’s car. “She’s from the neighboring village… How did she end up climbing under your car?” Qin Shiya was clearly very familiar with this mysterious girl, because she pulled Cheng Xi aside and whispered, “Leave her alone. She’s known to hit people.” Qin Shiya then looked around briefly before hobbling over to a grassy area, plucking some wildflowers and grasses, and then leaning under the car as she said, “Come out! I’ll give you some flowers.”
Cheng Xi watched on as Qin Shiya coaxed the strange girl out as if she were a little dog. The girl turned out to be a young woman, probably in her twenties, though she lacked the burnished cheeks common among the people in this area. Her skin was actually quite pale, her height average, and her hair was tied up in an unkempt bun with all sorts of little flowers sticking out.
In just a single glance, Cheng Xi had identified this girl as someone suffering from mental illness. Indeed, she snatched the flowers away from Qin Shiya’s palm and stuck them willy-nilly into her hair. When she was done, she observed herself in Cheng Xi’s rearview mirror. “My father, the emperor, would probably like my current look, wouldn’t he?” And then she ran off whimsically.
Cheng Xi looked towards Qin Shiya questioningly.
“She’s from the neighboring village. She became mentally ill two years ago, and since then, she’s been running around everywhere. I don’t know how she ended up underneath your car, though.”
“Doesn’t her family care about her?” If her family cared even a bit about her, they shouldn’t have allowed a young and pretty girl like her to just run around like this in this day and age.
“They can’t. They’re destitute.” Qin Shiya’s attitude was rather cold as she expounded on her situation. “Her father died in the Gansu earthquake, her older brother’s a paraplegic, and she also has a younger brother. Her mother ran off with some other man because their family was too poor, and her grandparents can’t take care of her. Thus, they could only leave her be.”
Cheng Xi looked at the girl running off into the distance, not saying anything. Qin Shiya didn’t speak up either. During this first meeting, Cheng Xi had no idea how much impact this little girl would have on her life. While Cheng XI drove back to the hospital, she only thought about whether she could do something for her.
When she returned the car to the director—the car that she was driving was actually on loan from the director—she casually asked, “Does the local government have any support programs for destitute mental illness patients?”
The director thought for a moment before responding, “I don’t believe there are any at the moment.”
“What’s the problem?”
Cheng Xi looked imploringly at the director as she recalled the girl whom she’d seen at Qin Shiya’s place.
“We can’t help her. The county government doesn’t have that much money, and it can’t even help the poor, let alone the poor and insane. What’s more, do you know why so many mental illness patients have emerged after the earthquake? It’s because we’re so poor that we couldn’t afford to offer large-scale therapy or counselling sessions. So, most people either dealt with it on their own or failed to do so and went crazy.”
The director’s tone was indifferent, as if this was simply how life was. Of course, Cheng Xi knew that she wasn’t at blame. Even though she was the director of the psychiatry department, she didn’t have much political power, and given the rather poor abilities of the doctors here, what she could do was also very limited.
But Cheng Xi still felt that she should do something about it.
This encounter also had an immediate effect on Cheng Xi: she realized how inconvenient it was not to have a car in this area. Later that night, she videocalled Cheng Yang and said, “I want to buy a car.”
Cheng Yang immediately became anxious. “What’re you going to do with a car? Don’t you dislike driving?”
“I can’t do anything here without a car!” The roads themselves were relatively well maintained, but there were few cars on them. For example, there wasn’t even a daily bus between Gansu and Qin Shiya’s new place. If the villagers had to go on a trip, they had to first walk past a long stretch of road before finally reaching a bus stop. This was why she had borrowed the director’s car.
Cheng Yang disapproved. “You can just rent a car instead. Why buy one?” And then he even asked for the money that their family had given her. “My company just took on a big contract and I need a large advance. How much money do you have? Lend some to me for now.”
Cheng Yang’s affairs were honestly more important, so Cheng Xi decided to give the money from her mother to her brother. “Tell mom about it for me, and once you make the money back, return the money to mom on my behalf.”
“Alright!” Cheng Yang’s voice became a lot brighter.
Cheng Xi couldn’t help but smile at hearing his cheery voice. “How’s everyone doing? Is Lu Chenming doing better now?” She asked a whole slew of questions and then finally remembered their last talk. “Why did you ask me for the administrative password that one time?”
Cheng Yang shot her a supercilious look. “How long ago was that? And you’re only bringing it up now?”
Cheng Xi ignored his rude behavior and instead asked, “Did Lu Chenzhou head over?”
Cheng Yang was caught off guard. He didn’t say anything.
But Cheng Xi nonetheless deduced the truth from his silence, as she then definitively said, “He went over.” With a heavy sigh, she asked, “Has he been doing well recently?”
Cheng Yang snorted. “As well as always.”
Cheng Yang turned mad all of a sudden. “Even after he treated you like that, you’re still thinking about him? What’s wrong with you?!”
And then he hung up.
But not even two minutes passed before he called her again to yell at her. “You’re not allowed to keep thinking about that man! You’re not allowed to buy a car, buy a house, or make any sort of investment! You’re going to come back after one or two years, so what’s the point of buying something?”
Cheng Yang was overreacting, wasn’t he? From his words, Cheng Xi could infer a part of the truth. It seemed Lu Chenzhou really had gone to her apartment after she left, and that he had met Cheng Yang there and caused him to lose face.
Well, at least Lu Chenzhou’s doing well …… but this thought also made her feel a bit sorry for her brother, who was just being protective of her.
Cheng Xi and Tian Rou still talked often, and from her, Cheng Xi could more or less glean the rest of the situation with Lu Chenzhou. “He seems to be just like before. When he’s free, he’ll play mahjong with Baldy and the rest of them, but no one plays tennis with him anymore, as he’d just wreck them.”
It sounded like everything was fine for the most part. Cheng Xi sighed, hoping that the picture Tian Rou had depicted was accurate. She had wanted to contact Lu Chenzhou quite a few times, but…… that fellow had blocked her.
Both her WeChat ID and her phone number were blocked; she was utterly unable to connect to him.
He was quite serious about this, it seemed.
Cheng Xi’s thoughts didn’t dwell on this subject for too long. Some more time passed, and in September, she decided to buy her own car with her savings: a cross-country vehicle by a Chinese brand. It had a relatively good gas mileage, and it was quite a good alternative to walking everywhere.
When Cheng Xi went down to visit Qin Shiya with her new car, she ran into the flower girl again. At that time, the small kindergarten was packed with kids, and the commotion seemed to have grabbed her attention. Since Cheng Xi was interested in her situation, she paid special attention to her.
Cheng Xi didn’t spot the flower girl in the kindergarten’s backyard, so she went outside. In the distance, Cheng Xi saw the flower girl run down the road as two little boys chased after her with wooden rods.
Cheng Xi was about to call out and stop the boys when she saw the girl turn around with an enraged expression, grab one of the boys’ rods, and throw it to the side. Then, she grabbed the boy himself, picked him up, and then threw him to the side as well.
There was a man-made pool by the roadside, and it was quite deep. If the boy was thrown in recklessly…… Cheng Xi didn’t dare shout at the flower girl for fear of frightening her and making her do something even crazier. The moment she realized the girl’s intentions, she had started sprinting towards them. Luckily, Cheng Xi wasn’t too far from them, and she arrived right as the boy was tossed into the air.
Amidst the yells of the other boy, Cheng Xi jumped into the water. Luckily, the pool wasn’t too big, and she had jumped close to where the boy landed. Even through the murky waters, she found and grabbed the boy.
However, she had acted too rashly and hadn’t thought her actions through. After she grabbed the boy, her mind went blank—the pool was deeper than she expected, the bottom was so muddy that she couldn’t support herself properly, and above all else, she couldn’t swim!
Despite being able to do almost everything else, Dr. Cheng couldn’t swim!