Cheng Xi was confident that Cai Yi would eventually succeed in her research, but she had never expected it to bear fruit so quickly.
Cheng Xi began smiling after hearing the news. “Then, congratulations to Professor Cai. And congratulations to you as well, senior.”
Her senior was being nurtured as Cai Yi’s successor, so Cai Yi’s success was also her success.
Her senior smiled gratefully. “Thank you.” She pinched Cheng Xi’s face, but when she saw Lu Chenzhou’s expression stiffen even further, she stopped, stuck her tongue out, and asked, “Didn’t you know about this?”
Cheng Xi shook her head. “I just came back.”
“Oh, you came to see us so quickly after returning?”
Cheng Xi didn’t say anything else. Her senior led her into the laboratory, where Cai Yi was currently being interviewed by the media. She didn’t have time to talk to Cheng Xi, so Cheng Xi seized the opportunity to ask her senior, “Is Chen Jiaman still here? I’d like to see her. Can I?”
Her senior hesitated for a moment before smiling again. “You’re still thinking about that patient of yours even after all this time? Yes, that’s fine. Let me arrange it.” She was also quite busy, and was unable to personally lead Cheng Xi over. So, she assigned a junior researcher to guide Cheng Xi there. As they waited for the other person to arrive, the senior researcher told Cheng Xi, “Chen Jiaman’s actually mostly recovered by now. However, her family feels that she should stay here a bit longer. Thus, Professor Cai’s been keeping her here all this time.”
As she said this, she glanced at Lu Chenzhou again, though her expression this time was slightly embarrassed.
Cheng Xi didn’t say anything, and neither did Lu Chenzhou. The junior researcher arrived soon after, and the two of them followed that person into Chen Jiaman’s ward.
Chen Jiaman was still in a solitary ward, and was currently curled up in the innermost part of the room. Cheng Xi felt like she had arrived at her destination after an arduous and long journey; she was finally able to see Chen Jiaman.
The door had been left ajar. In contrast to the festive mood outside, it was cold and desolate inside. Chen Jiaman sat on the bed, alone with a bunny in her lap as she gazed at the distant night sky.
She didn’t respond when Cheng Xi opened the door, and the person who brought Cheng Xi over whispered, “She likes to sit alone, and she hates being disrupted by other people. Senior, please be calm and steady when you approach her. If she ignores you, please don’t try to provoke her further either.”
Cheng Xi nodded and then slowly entered the room.
“Jiaman.” Cheng Xi called out to her when she was within a couple footsteps from the bed.
But Chen Jiaman didn’t respond. She was no longer afraid of the light or other people; she just didn’t respond.
Cheng Xi slowly breathed out and immediately gave up on trying to call out to her. Instead, she swapped tactics and used a calm and gentle voice to recount a story. “A little bunny who was scared of the dark yelled out in a dark room, ‘Is anyone there? Speak to me. I’m scared, and it’s too dark in here.’ There was another bunny locked up with it. That bunny was very old, and when it heard the little bunny say this, it responded, ‘What’s the point? It’s so dark in here that you won’t be able see me anyways.’ The little bunny replied, ‘That’s alright. As long as someone’s speaking, there’ll always be light.’”
Cheng Xi repeated this story over and over, and on the third attempt, Chen Jiaman slowly turned around, slightly tilted her head, and looked at her.
“Who are you? Why do you know my story?”
“That’s right.” Chen Jiaman slowly started smiling. Like her gaze, her smile was a bit dull. Over the past year, she had grown much taller, and her facial features had started to settle in. She was starting to look like a young girl now, but because of the slight dullness in her demeanor, she still looked a bit silly.
It was a familiar expression, and one that Cheng Xi had seen countless times on the faces of patients who’d been locked up for a very long time. It meant that they had silently submitted to a deep, traumatizing fear.
And it was with this expression on her face that Chen Jiaman smiled and said to Cheng Xi, “I’m the little bunny, of course.”
Cheng Xi didn’t know why, but tears started streaming down her face. She covered her mouth, unable to say anything.
With her emotions running wild the way they were, it was no longer suitable for Cheng Xi to stay in the ward. After a moment of silence, Cheng Xi left Chen Jiaman with slightly reddened eyes.
After all, Cai Yi had just done something truly commendable, and Cheng Xi didn’t want to dampen her mood right now. She thanked the junior researcher who had led her to Chen Jiaman’s ward, and then brought Lu Chenzhou along for a walk outside. When she felt a bit better, she went back in one more time to see Cai Yi again.
At that point, she had finished interviewing, but she was still very busy. Even so, she allocated a portion of her time to Cheng Xi.
“You’re back?” This was the first thing Cai Yi said when they sat down.
Cheng Xi nodded. “Congratulations, Professor.”
These words of hers were sincere, but not very heartfelt. Cai Yi’s work was certainly very meaningful to the world at large, especially her newly proposed standards and treatment methods for depression. Patients suffering from depression all over the world would undoubtedly benefit from her findings.
And as for what she had done to complete this research, compared to the results, it really was insignificant.
Cai Yi understood where Cheng Xi was coming from, so she patted her shoulder and graciously said, “You’re not doing too badly yourself. I’ve heard about what you’re doing in Gansu, and if you need any help on my part, just let me know. Although we’ve taken different paths, our ultimate destination is still the same.”
This was Cai Yi’s consolation, and from her angle, she’d really elevated Cheng Xi’s position.
But her words didn’t console Cheng Xi much. Whenever she thought about Chen Jiaman, an uncomfortable feeling welled up within her, as if a small bone was lodged in her throat.
Cai Yi asked her a few more questions about Gansu, and then talked with Lu Chenzhou about Donglai for a while. “You’re really planning on stepping down?”
It was the same question that Baldy had asked.
Lu Chenzhou was even colder to her than to Baldy. “Wouldn’t that be a good thing for you?”
Cai Yi nodded seriously. “That’s true. But I’d rather work with a familiar face than an unfamiliar one. If I have to have a sponsor, Donglai is a good choice. So unless I really have to, I won’t find someone else.”
Lu Chenzhou snorted indifferently.
As they left, he commented, “She’s someone who does big things.” Cheng Xi was a little shocked by his comment, but he continued, “And you’re not. So can you drop what you’re doing in Gansu?”
Cheng Xi didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. “No, I can’t.” She replied to him seriously but apologetically. “Everything has just barely gotten started, and I can’t call others over and then run away myself.” When she saw how unhappy he became at her reply, she tried to placate him. “Once everything’s settled, I’ll hand the organization over to some specialists, and then it won’t be necessary for me to stay there any longer.”
But Lu Chenzhou wasn’t that easily placated. “How long will that take?”
This was as good of a compromise as she’d ever get from him.
“Ten years?” But when she glanced at his expression, she rapidly halved it. “Five years!” Lu Chenzhou thought for a little and then reluctantly agreed. But after this initial accommodation, Cheng Xi tried to wrangle some more out of him.
Cheng Xi only sporadically mentioned Chen Jiaman after they left Cai Yi’s research lab, so Lu Chenzhou had thought that she’d given up on Chen Jiaman. After all, she would be very busy in a far away land; thus, it was useless for her to waste her time thinking about Chen Jiaman. But, one day, Cheng Xi received a call and left for awhile. When she came back, there was a little shadow following behind her. That small shadow was constantly tugging at the hem of Cheng Xi’s clothes as it stood fearfully to the side. When it saw Lu Chenzhou, it instinctively hid behind Cheng Xi and asked, “Mom, who is he?”
Mom? Lu Chenzhou’s face fell ashen as he stared daggers at Cheng Xi.
Slightly embarrassed, Cheng Xi patted Chen Jiaman’s hand and said, “This is Lu-” But after a glance at Lu Chenzhou’s face, she changed her introduction. “Lu Chenzhou, my fiancé.”
And right as she was about to tell Chen Jiaman how she should address him, Chen Jiaman peeked her head out and said, quietly but clearly, “Daddy.”
Lu Chenzhou’s scalp went numb, and his face turned completely black.