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“Skin and bones? Is it really that bad? I only weigh 40-odd kilograms, it’s not that light. I plan to go up to 60 kilograms though,” An Xiaoning said with a wry smile.

“You’ll look good if you’re chubbier. Tell me honestly, what commendable feat have you achieved recently other than completing the exercise boot camp?” Gu Beicheng asked, reaching out to hold her hand.

“Seems like you know I’ve done something commendable.”

She retracted her hand from his and mocked teasingly, “Would it hurt to not take advantage of me?”

“I haven’t seen you in so long. What’s wrong with holding your paw for a little? Petty miser.” He refused to give up and held her hand once again.

Gazing at him, An Xiaoning burst into laughter and allowed him to continue holding her hand. “Where did you come from? Don’t tell me you especially came all the way here just to see me?”

“What do you think?”

“How would I know? By the way, I just saw on the news that Chi Rui’er had delivered prematurely.”

“Yeah, I heard she claimed to have tripped and fallen at home,” Gu Beicheng said nonchalantly. “Why did Jin Qingyan move in beside you?” he added.

“You’ve found out about that too?”

“It’s all over the news! Is he really that bored and free to be buying and moving into a new property so casually?” Gu Beicheng grumbled in disgruntlement.

“Just ignore him. You too can buy property if you wanted.”

With a squint, he asked, “I forgot to ask you earlier, why have you gotten yourself involved with Xi Bolai?”

“I didn’t wish to either. I’m innocent. He was the one who came looking for trouble. If it weren’t for my quick-wittedness, I reckon you wouldn’t be seeing me here today,” said An Xiaoning, feeling rather aggrieved.

“Wow wow wow, look at you being all poor and pitiful. Weren’t you just having a great ton of fun at the holiday resort with Jin Qingyan?” he teased.

However, he sounded rather bitter and jealous.

“I didn’t go out of my own accord, he forced me to,” An Xiaoning explained.

“Do you dare say that you weren’t in the least bit willing?”

“I wasn’t! Besides, why aren’t you mentioning the time you forced me to go parachuting with you? The pot calling the kettle black,” An Xiaoning retorted.

Gu Beicheng chuckled, thinking that An Xiaoning must have borne a strong resentment against Jin Qingyan, judging from her tone.

“We haven’t seen each other in so long. What do you say we go out for a meal?” he suggested.

“I haven’t been feeling too well the past couple of days. Why don’t we go have a meal on my birthday instead? It’s on the 15th of July.”

Noticing that she indeed looked a little sickly, he answered, “How can we spend your birthday by having just a simple meal? Why don’t you let me plan your schedule on your birthday?”

“Sure,” she agreed with a nod.

——

At this very moment, a tall and slender figure standing by the roof of the house next door was staring at them intently with a pair of binoculars. It was none other than Jin Qingyan. Why hasn’t Gu Beicheng left yet even though it had already been more than ten minutes? he wondered.

He continued to watch them for a few more minutes, only to find that Gu Beicheng had still yet to leave.

“Young Sir, Old Madam has called to ask you to return to the old mansion for dinner,” said Jin Qingyan’s servant.

“Tell my Grandmother I’m busy.”

“This is the third time you’ve turned her down this week. Old Madam has already mentioned beforehand that she would keep waiting for you to come home if you refuse to show up again this evening.”

Placing his binoculars down, Jin Qingyan grumbled, “Grandma is really becoming more and more obstinate with age.”

He headed downstairs to pick up his car keys on the table and proceeded to drive away.

Coincidentally, he bumped into Gu Beicheng, who had just exited from An Xiaoning’s house, at that very moment.

Jin Qingyan did not stop his car, however, and instead just drove past Gu Beicheng.

Soon, he arrived at the Jin family’s old mansion.

Upon the sight of him, old Mrs. Jin quickly rose from her seat on the couch and said in surprise, “I really thought you weren’t going to come home today.”

“Grandma, I told you I was busy. Where’s Mother?”

“She went to Qingyue’s place. I reckon she’ll be home anytime soon.”

“Grandma, did you miss me a little too much?” said Jin Qingyan as he took a seat.

“You wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t give you a call. I’ve been seeing you on the news every day though. You and Xiaoning… how are things between you two now?” asked old Mrs. Jin.

“Things are the way they are,” Jin Qingyan answered vaguely, picking up his chopsticks to begin eating.

“It’s been so long, yet you still haven’t managed to convince her to go back to you? Seems like Xiaoning has really made up her mind,” old Mrs. Jin said with a sigh.

“She’s made up her mind, but so have I. I don’t believe that she’s more determined than I am,” Jin Qingyan said confidently with a smile.

“You’re almost driving your Mother to her grave. But, I really think you shouldn’t force Xiaoning if she’s really so unwilling to get back together with you, lest we appear to be unreasonable and tyrannical.”

“Well, I’m going to force her no matter what.”

“You’re as stubborn as a mule yourself,” old Mrs. Jin chastised as she shot him a glare.

“Well, too bad. I just fancy her too much.”

“…”

Mrs. Jin entered through the door with a sullen expression on her face.

“Who made you upset again this time?” Jin Qingyan asked in curiosity.

“You, of course. Could you stop making the headlines every other day? And it’s always because of her. You actually brought her to a holiday resort previously. Qingyan, do you think our family is not embarrassed enough?” Mrs. Jin chided as she sat down.

“I don’t find that embarrassing at all. Please stop grumbling and being such a killjoy during mealtimes.”

“Exactly, you’ve been nagging at him continuously every single time you see him. You’ve made him detest coming back here. I had to call him multiple times before he finally agreed to come home,” said old Mrs. Jin.

“He’s already an adult. Do you really think he’s not sensible enough to know what he’s doing? It’s not like he’s still a toddler who needs you to tell him what to do,” she continued in defense of her grandson.

“Mother… that’s not what I meant.”

“That’s enough, stop talking and start eating.” Mrs. Jin dared not utter another word upon hearing old Mrs. Jin’s warning.

——

“Long time no see, Ms. An,” Jing Tian greeted as he entered through the door.

“Indeed, it has been a while. Have a seat, Jing Tian. I’ve got something to discuss with you,” said An Xiaoning, pointing towards a chair beside her.

Jing Tian proceeded to take a seat and said, “Please speak your mind.”

“I was wondering if you have some free time in your schedule to direct a film this year. It’s going to be a small-production comedy film. I haven’t found a screenwriter, but I thought it would be better to discuss it with you first,” said An Xiaoning, cutting straight to the chase.

“Ms. An, you mean…” Jing Tian asked with uncertainty.

“You may just call me Xiaoning. What I meant was, I’d like for you to direct a film I’ll be investing in. At the same time, I’ll also be looking for sponsors to invest as well. As for the script, we shall look for a suitable scriptwriter together. What do you think about that?” An Xiaoning suggested.

“That’s great, of course. I don’t have anything lined up at the moment. The drama starring Sun Weiwei, which I directed previously, didn’t receive ideal ratings. So, I don’t have any new assignments currently,” Jing Tian answered, appearing a little glum and disappointed.

“You’re still young in your years, people are definitely going to be skeptical of you. But in my opinion, you’ll definitely make it big. Remember I read your fortune once? You’re going to enjoy excellent career prospects this year. The film you direct is going to become a blockbuster. So, let’s work together. I believe in you,” An Xiaoning reassured him smilingly.

“Since you have so much faith in me, I’ll do my best to not disappoint you, Ms. An. I’m more than willing to work with you.”

“Okay, great. Then you shall start looking for a screenwriter who’s experienced in comedy films. I’ll look out for some candidates too. We’ll discuss about further details once we find a suitable one. What do you say?”

“Sure, we’ll do just that.” Jing Tian nodded in agreement.