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Staring out of the window, An Xiaoning continued, “I have no idea why, but ever since we got married, Shi Shaochuan had always disliked me — we’ve never shared the same bed. Later on, his grandfather’s illness deteriorated, and he passed away shortly after. Ever since, my presence in the Shi family seemed almost redundant. Wait, shouldn’t you be more curious about why I ended up at your doorstep?”

“Well, to be honest, I’m more interested in finding out what else you’d wish to have, other than money,” replied Jin Qingyan.

“I wish to have a warm family,” replied An Xiaoning.

He had wanted just the same. With a slight smile, he stared coldly at the road ahead.

Making things clear beforehand, An Xiaoning said immediately after they arrived at his home, “I’d like for you to pay me half of the agreed sum in advance. You can pay the remaining half after the ritual is completed tomorrow.”

“Why are you rushing me? Rest assured, I will pay you what is due. But first, let me take a shower,” Jin Qingyan said in response, loosening his tie and taking off his coat.

He then put on his bedroom slippers and went upstairs while An Xiaoning waited for him in the living room.

Ten minutes passed. Then twenty… and now, thirty…

Yet, he still hadn’t returned.

Not wanting to wait any longer, An Xiaoning proceeded to look for him upstairs.

The moment she entered his bedroom, she was greeted by a Jin Qingyan who was dressed in nothing else other than a bathrobe, his back facing her. It was nothing like she had expected.

Jin Qingyan turned around and questioned, “Getting anxious?” His lips thinned into a smirk at the same time, startling her.

Not feeling like herself, An Xiaoning felt her heart racing out of the blue as she stared at him. “I-I-I… decided to come up to look for you because you haven’t returned even after a long time…” she said with a stutter.

“Are you going to barge in without knocking, even if I’m showering?” Jin Qingyan asked, voice delicate.

Is he implying that I was being impolite? An Xiaoning thought to herself.

Upon hearing his words, she blushed with embarrassment and wished that the earth would swallow her up.

“Of course not, you’re reading too much into things,” she answered.

“Come here,” instructed Jin Qingyan as, baring his olive skin, he sat on the sofa and poured two goblets of wine.

An Xiaoning proceeded to sit opposite him. “This is a cheque for 100 thousand yuan,” said Jin Qingyuan as he slid her the cheque.

Surprised, An Xiaoning asked, “Aren’t you afraid that the effects of my ritual are only temporary?”

“Well, you can be sure that I’ll hunt you down no matter where you go, if that happens,” answered Jin Qingyuan. Offering her a goblet of alcohol, he continued, “Try this. It’s a drink you’ve never tasted before.”

An Xiaoning picked up the goblet and gave it a sip. “What type of liquor is this?” she asked curiously after finding that it had a unique taste as he mentioned.

“It’s a concoction I mixed myself, which I named ‘Dreamyanghe’,” answered Jin Qingyan.

“What does ‘Dreamyanghe’ mean?”

“Dreamy Yanghe liquor.”

An Xiaoning enjoyed a drink every now and then, but she had good control and was never an alcoholic. However, she could not help but continue to down this liquor, sip after sip, goblet after goblet.

After three goblets of wine, she still wanted more. “You’ve had enough. The effects of this drink are too strong, you should not be drinking that much,” said Jin Qingyan while stopping her from pouring herself a fourth goblet.

“Mr. Jin, the effects don’t seem that strong to me. It tastes pretty good. Let me have another one, please, just one more,” An Xiaoning pleaded, licking her lips.

He had no choice but to give in and allow her to pour herself one last drink, after which he put the liquor away.

“I said it would be the last, why are you still putting it away? You miser!” she exclaimed in a drunken stupor.

“A miser? I’ve already offered you four goblets of the liquor, yet you are still not content. Do you have any idea how much each goblet costs?” retorted Jin Qingyan.

“A few hundred yuan… Or is it one thousand? Or two?”

“Twenty thousand yuan. You’ve finished 80 thousand yuan’s worth of liquor, and you’re still calling me a miser?” he replied.

An Xiaoning chuckled and stood up, almost losing her balance. “Wow, the effects are really strong. My head is spinning,” she continued, letting out a burp as she walked away from the sofa.

To Jin Qingyan’s surprise, An Xiaoning started walking towards his bed instead of leaving. Failing to stop her in time, he watched as she crawled onto his bed like a toad and kicked off the bedroom slippers.

“Get up and go sleep in the guest room,” he instructed, extending his hand to help her up. However, An Xiaoning turned around and whined with her eyes closed, “I’m only going to sleep for a while. Just a little while.”

Not expecting An Xiaoning to be an alcoholic, Jin Qingyan began to deeply regret his decision to offer her some liquor.

He really could not tell she was one.

After half an hour of waiting while sitting on the sofa, she still did not wake up — he had no choice but to resort to forcing her.

He had originally planned to carry her to the guest room. Little did he expect for An Xiaoning to react in such a way — she tugged at his bathrobe, causing it to fall to his waist instantly. After that, it continued to slide down further.

Jin Qingyan put her down so he could adjust his bathrobe. At that very instant, An Xiaoning suddenly threw up all over him.

The pungent odor of her vomit infiltrated his senses. He zoomed towards the bathroom, his hands covering his nose.

An Xiaoning slipped back into her sleep after throwing up, leaving behind the mess she created, which Jin Qingyan would have to clean up.

——

It was daybreak. An Xiaoning awakened from her sleep, and the scene before her robbed her of her senses the moment she opened her eyes.

She was lying stark naked in Jin Qingyan’s bed, and he was nowhere to be found.

What actually happened last night? she thought to herself.

Hearing the sudden noise of water coming from the toilet, she quickly covered herself with the duvet. Jin Qingyan walked out of the bathroom wearing a look of disdain as he looked at her and said, “What are you looking at? Put on some clothes and we’ll make our way to the old mansionette.”

“How… how did I end up in your bed?” An Xiaoning asked, bewildered.

“You should be asking yourself that,” answered Jin Qingyan. He left without another word.

She then hopped off the bed while holding onto the duvet which was covering her naked body, then picked up the clothes on the floor. After putting on her clothes, she noticed a few bloodstains on the white sheets, giving her yet another shock.

A terrifying image began to form in her mind.

Last night…

Did they do something they weren’t supposed to?

An Xiaoning quickly got dressed and took a photo of the stained sheets with her mobile phone. She hurried downstairs after taking the cheque left on the table.

Remembering that it was the day she had to file for a divorce, she took out from her still-drenched luggage a pouch containing her bank account passbook and personal identification card.

“What did you do to me last night?” An Xiaoning asked Jin Qingyan.

“Don’t you remember at all?” he replied, looking at her as if to say she was a fool to even ask.

“Of course I don’t.”

“Splendid,” remarked Jin Qingyan, his cool and calm reply driving her crazy as she thought, What does that mean?

“Last night, did we… do something upsetting?” she continued to ask.

“It was joyous for you, but not so much for me. Quick, go have your breakfast,” he instructed while putting on his shoes.

That darned jerk. How dare he say… it wasn’t great for him! An Xiaoning cursed in her head.

Her reaction was so boring. How infuriating! Jin Qingyan thought.

After putting on her shoes, she said strangely, “Anyway, I can’t recall what happened last night. Neither does it feel like anything. If not for the bloodstain on the sheets, I wouldn’t have believed something like that actually happened.”

Having just realized what she meant, a startled Jin Qingyan said casually without exposing her, “If you’d like me to prove it to you again while we’re sober, we can do it tonight. I’m all game for it.”