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Xi Bolai retrieved a rope from the drawer and tied it around Annie’s neck before tightening the knot, causing her to remain still.

“Just dare to bet I won’t strangle you to death.”

“I know you won’t. You’re not that cruel to me,” said a frightened Annie as she gripped the rope tightly to prevent him from tightening it further.

Xi Bolai finally let go and said, “I’ll give you a chance. Don’t show up in front of me again and stay as far away from me as possible. I don’t wish to see you again from now on.”

Noticing the austere expression on his face, Annie said reluctantly, “You really don’t need me anymore?”

“Don’t you understand English? Must I really repeat myself?”

“Of course not.” Utterly dejected, she lifted herself off him and said, “I’ll leave right now.”

After taking a few steps, she stopped in her tracks and added, “I think you’re suddenly interested in An Xiaoning only because you’ve never seen such a strong-headed woman like her before. But, there’s no way you can defeat Jin Qingyan, he’s way more brilliant than you are.”

In a moment of pique, Xi Bolai whipped a gun out and pointed it at her. “You talk too much,” he said while releasing the trigger.

The bullet struck Annie right smack in the middle of her forehead, after which she fell to the ground immediately.

He zipped his pants and stood up to leave. “Clean up the mess,” he instructed the servants at the door.

“Yes, Master.”

With a hand in his pocket, Xi Bolai walked towards the living room and asked the man beside him, “What’s the condition in S Nation now?”

“Master, An Xiaoning was imprisoned previously because she was framed as the prime suspect of the murder of Jin Qingyan’s grandmother. But the truth was revealed, proving her to be innocent, and thus, she has since been released. Jin Qingyan seems to be very protective of An Xiaoning. He ordered for bodyguards to guard by every corner of their residence, and An Xiaoning would also be escorted everywhere she goes. I heard that Jin Qingyan has renovated his house and they would be moving in very soon.”

“Oh, seems like he’s learned his lesson. He’s Jin Qingyan after all.” A look of disappointment formed on Xi Bolai’s face. It was his first time feeling threatened and challenged because of a woman.

His only hobby was to toy with women who were already attached.

He refused to believe that Jin Qingyan could protect her seamlessly. They agreed to meet again after all, how could he not keep to his promise?

An Xiaoning, I will come for you , he thought in his head.

Xi Bolai stared out of the door with a look of determination in his gaze.

——

Jin Qingyan received a call from Mrs. Jin just as he got off from work in the afternoon.

“Qingyan, Mother has nowhere to go now. I’ve been looking for a house all day, but I just can’t seem to find a suitable one. I don’t feel comfortable living in a smaller house. I plan to move in to the house you used as your bridal chamber back then,” said Mrs. Jin, who sounded like she was informing him of her decision instead of discussing her plans with him.

“You’re moving in alone?”

“No, with your uncle as well.”

Jin Qingyan’s tone turned cold and aloof instantly. “No, I’ll allow you to live there if you’re moving in alone. He’s not allowed to come with you. Otherwise, you two may go look for Qingyue instead.”

“I’ve already divorced your father. Qingyan, you have so many properties across the country anyway, what’s wrong with letting me move into one? Your father and I have long lost our feelings for each other. Do you know how I struggled with the emotional torment when he begot a daughter with his mistress in the past? I’ve already given up on him since then.”

“I don’t care what’s between you two. My decision is final. You may move in alone, but the butler is not allowed to,” Jin Qingyan insisted firmly.

“Forget it, I’ll let him rent another house nearby.”

“Wait a minute! If he rents a house nearby, wouldn’t you two be openly showing up together very often around my estate?” Jin Qingyan questioned.

“Wouldn’t that be okay?”

“Of course not! If you don’t wish to see me kill him, then you’d better make him move to another city,” Jin Qingyan warned sternly.

“Then I’ll leave together with him. Forget about seeing me again for the rest of your life!” Mrs. Jin retorted angrily.

“Sure, it doesn’t matter to me anyway. Do you really think I can’t live without my mother?”

“Qingyan!” Not wishing to live her remaining days branded as an adulterer, Mrs. Jin gave in. “I promise we won’t appear in public together under broad daylight. Will that do?”

“He is to rent a house at least five kilometers away from my estate. Otherwise, you’re on your own.” Jin Qingyan detested the butler to the point that he wished he could just behead him.

“Alright, got it. I’ll move in alone then,” said Mrs. Jin before hanging up the phone.

Staring at his phone screen, Jin Qingyan blocked the butler’s mobile number and began driving back to Dongpo District. Just as he arrived at the backyard, a pleasant fragrance wafted up to his nose.

He peeked inside to find that his dainty woman, An Xiaoning, was cooking up a meal while wearing an apron, in spite of her mediocre culinary skills.

“Are you cooking?” he asked, hugging her from behind.

“Yes, I’m learning how to.”

“Let me teach you,” he said, grabbing her hand to guide her in stir-frying the dishes.

Beaming with joy, An Xiaoning looked up at him and said, “I feel just like we’re acting out a scene from a romantic drama.”

“Really?” he asked.

“You seem to be in a bad mood. What happened?” An Xiaoning managed to sense his unhappiness due to her sensitive character.

“My mother has been on a search for a house to move into the whole day and said that she wouldn’t be comfortable with living in a smaller house. Thus, she wants to move into our previous bridal chamber, and she even said that she’d like for the butler to move in together with her. But no way am I allowing that. In the end, she agreed to move in alone,” Jin Qingyan explained, fuming with anger at the thought of his conversation with his mother earlier.

“Ever since we got married, my impression of your mother has changed drastically. I used to see her as a good role model and a perfect mother-in-law, but after everything that happened, I view her in a completely different light now,” An Xiaoning remarked.

“Do you remember the half-sister from another mother I mentioned to you before? Do you know how her mother died?”

“Did your mother kill her?” the intelligent An Xiaoning guessed it right away.

“You may say so. That woman stirred up a huge dispute in my family back then and requested my father to give her a proper status. My mother was no saint either and went all out in dealing with her. That woman died afterwards. My mother would often get very agitated at the sight of my father’s illegitimate daughter. But then again, my mother did commit adultery herself too. She ought to be punished for her sins.”

With no desire to mince his words or hide the truth at all, Jin Qingyan added, “I was thinking, I might just lose all my respect for her one day. I don’t expect you to respect her either.”

An Xiaoning found it rather heartwarming to hear him bare his heart and soul to her and reveal things he normally would not tell anyone easily. She was glad to know that she had a special place in his heart.

“I think you’re doing the right thing. You’re not obliged to give in unconditionally just because she’s your parent. So, I don’t think you’re wrong at all,” An Xiaoning reassured him while holding his gaze.

He lowered his head to give her a nibble while she stretched her neck to kiss him back. They engaged in a deep, passionate kiss in the midst of cooking up a dish.

They pulled away from each other moments later and continued to concentrate on cooking.

Together, they prepared a delectable feast of four dishes and a pot of soup.

They sat down opposite each other. “I need to eat more,” said An Xiaoning as she picked up her bowl of rice and a pair of chopsticks and began eating without waiting for him.