Just as she exited the residential estate, Gu Beicheng pulled up next to An Xiaoning. The door was flung open and, with brute force, he pulled her into the passenger seat of his car.
“I’ll give you a ride. It’s on the way.”
“I said it was fine.”
“Don’t stand on ceremony with your Brother,” insisted Gu Beicheng. Despite calling himself her “Brother,” both Gu Beicheng and An Xiaoning were well aware that deep down, neither of them had ever seen the other as their own sibling.
Not long after, they arrived at An Xiaoning’s doorstep. “Do you really want to know why I asked you about that, all of a sudden?” said Gu Beicheng as she was about to alight.
“I hope you’ll tell the truth,” said An Xiaoning, turning to look at him.
As he tucked her hair behind her ear, An Xiaoning remained still, completely unaffected by his actions.
“I am rather curious about who that child she had had aborted belonged to. But what I am more curious about is whether or not your fortune-telling skills are as reliable as Grandpa had made them out to be,” he continued. A smile had crept around the corner of his mouth.
Recalling what he had said previously, An Xiaoning answered, “So that’s why you asked such an ambiguous question, like whether she would be expecting a child within six months. I thought you were asking about the next six months, yet you were actually asking an open-ended question. ‘Within six months’ could refer to the six months prior to today. It could also refer to the next half of this year, or even a total duration of six months before and after today. Isn’t that so?”
He nodded in admission and continued to confess, “I didn’t expect you to be so accurate. My classmate who’s a gynaecologist told me that Rui’er had gone through the abortion three months ago. According to your predictions, she would be pregnant again in six months’ time. I’m so curious, just who is the father of the child?”
An Xiaoning asked in reply, “Do you actually think that it was my husband who had fathered the child?”
“Who knows? We can’t be too sure about that,” implied Gu Beicheng as he gazed down at the ring on his finger and turned it around.
“It can’t be Jin Qingyan,” protested An Xiaoning.
“But you’ve only known him for a few days?”
“If Chi Rui’er had carried his child previously, I wouldn’t be his wife today.”
“Is that so?” mocked Gu Beicheng with a sly laughter, his head tilted.
An Xiaoning alighted from the car and opened the main door of the house. At that very moment, Maomao came out of its kennel and ran towards her while wagging its tail. As she squatted down to pick Maomao up in her arms, she heard uniformly-paced footsteps coming from the door.
An Xiaoning received the shock of her life when she turned around to see who it was.
A posse of men had entered. Donning the same uniform, they looked to be in their 20s and 30s, and a handsome and dashing man was leading the way. The man seemed to be about 27 years old or so. He walked towards her and introduced himself, “Young Madam, I am Fan Shixin. We were sent by Boss Jin to oversee all matters regarding the villa.”
“Does ‘we’ include them?” asked An Xiaoning, pointing towards the men in the yard.
“Yes, Boss had given me a call 20 minutes ago to say that he needs some men here at the new place.”
The new place?
How many places did he own? An Xiaoning began to wonder.
Quickly dismissing her thoughts, An Xiaoning said, “Alright, we’ll have to trouble you with the house from now on.”
“Oh, you’re being too kind, Young Madam.”
Apart from the posse of uniformed men, many other helpers, including agriculture workers, housekeeping maids, and a female cook in charge of their meals, had also moved in to the house.
It seemed that the part-time housekeeping helper would no longer have to come and clean the house, and An Xiaoning would rarely have the chance to taste her husband’s cooking again.
After more than an hour, Jin Qingyan still had not come home. An Xiaoning knew instantly that he was definitely at the hospital again.
After some thorough thinking, she decided to go look for him at the hospital.
She paced up and down Chi Rui’er’s hospital ward, hiding her face beneath a mask. When a nurse entered the ward, An Xiaoning quickly took a peek inside, only to realize that there was no one in at all.
“Where’s the patient inside?” asked An Xiaoning, having waited until the nurse had exited.
“She was discharged today.”
“Didn’t she suffer a major leg injury?”
“It wasn’t too major. She had gone home to rest and recuperate,” answered the nurse.
“Alright, thank you.”
An Xiaoning stood at the entrance of the hospital and searched online about Chi Rui’er. To her surprise, there was no information about her at all.
She had initially thought it was a connectivity issue with the Internet. However, she soon realized that all photos and information regarding Chi Rui’er had been blocked by every site on the Internet. It was in fact a tough feat to achieve that.
Since she could not find him, An Xiaoning decided to head back home.
However, An Xiaoning happened to stumble across a young girl seated along the alley when she was passing by. The girl had a table in front of her, and next to it was a sign that read: “Fortune-telling.”
The girl seemed to be exceptionally spiritual, although she was dressed rather simply.
She looked gloomy and forlorn, perhaps because no one had believed her fortune-telling skills. “How much does each fortune-telling session cost?” asked An Xiaoning as she approached the girl.
“It costs 10 yuan, pretty lady. Why don’t you give it a try? My readings are very accurate,” answered Mei Yangyang. Her eyes had lit up at the sight of a beautiful lady.
Breaking into laughter, An Xiaoning sat down on the stool next to her and said, “No one is going to believe you this way.”
“Why not? I am really very accurate with my readings,” asked an intrigued Mei Yangyang.
“Firstly, you’re too young to be setting up a fortune-telling stall. Passers-by are just going to smile at you out of perfunctory courtesy, without really thinking that you actually possess real fortune-reading skills. Then again, because you’re constantly claiming to be ‘very accurate,’ people who might be half-believing your skills aren’t going to be convinced or patronize you anymore, even if you are really capable of accurate readings,” explained An Xiaoning.
“Yes, you are right,” answered Mei Yangyang immediately upon hearing An Xiaoning’s words.
“How many customers do you get on a daily basis?”
“None at all. Once in a blue moon, I would get a few here and there. Otherwise, it would just be some gangsters coming by to harass and take liberties with me,” said Mei Yangyang, sounding rather dejected.
“How about this, tell my fortune and I’ll see how accurate you are!” exclaimed An Xiaoning as she placed 10 yuan on the table.
An Xiaoning could not give her own birth characters since she did not know her real exact ones or who her biological parents were. Thus, she gave Chi Rui’er’s birth characters instead.
Mei Yangyang wrote the birth characters on a piece of paper and flipped through a book. “Look, you’re destined to have two sons, according to your birth characters. Unfortunately, one of them had already passed on,” she continued, stopping at a specific page on the book.
With a raised eyebrow, An Xiaoning asked, “Then, can you tell when the child is expected to arrive?”
“Congrats, pretty lady. You’re going to be expecting soon.”
Mei Yangyang was indeed rather accurate, in terms of reading birth characters. However, she was definitely not psychic, for she could not even tell that the set of birth characters did not belong to An Xiaoning.
“This set of birth characters aren’t mine, but rather a set I had read previously. I just wanted to know if you were really as accurate as you claimed to be. Not bad, you do know a thing or two.”
An Xiaoning turned around to leave as soon as she finished her sentence.
“Wait up!” exclaimed Mei Yangyang.