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“Get the servants to clean up the pile of ashes,” An Xiaoning instructed as she handed the joss urn to Gu Beicheng.

“Xiaoning… it doesn’t hurt anymore,” said Mrs. Gu, who strode towards her quickly.

An Xiaoning nodded and held onto Mrs. Gu’s arm before turning around to tell Mr. Gu and Gu Beicheng, “I have something to tell you guys later when we return inside the house.”

“Alright.”

An Xiaoning and Mrs. Gu first went back to the bedroom. An Xiaoning sat down by the side of the bed and asked Mrs. Gu if she was feeling any discomfort in other parts of her body, to which Mrs. Gu answered with a no.

“Mother, does Elder Brother know when your birthday is?”

Mrs. Gu nodded and answered, “Yes, he even asked specifically for the exact timing of my birth. But, I didn’t tell him since I thought I shouldn’t give away these details so casually.”

“Actually, it would work even if you didn’t tell him the exact timing. After all, no one shares the same birthday as you in this household.”

An Xiaoning was not sure if it was Gu Dongcheng or Xu Youran who was behind the act, or if they ganged up and did it together.

Thus, it was a rather thorny situation.

Gu Beicheng and Mr. Gu entered, after which they locked the door from inside.

“I’m guessing that that piece of bone must be from a human. There shouldn’t be such a vigorous reaction if it were from an animal. At least the only thing we can confirm for now is that the culprit must be either Elder Brother or Xu Youran. They could’ve both done it together too. It can’t be anyone else,” An Xiaoning deduced.

“Xu Youran?” Mrs. Gu asked in puzzlement.

An Xiaoning nodded before explaining, “Last evening, we went to attend the business gathering held at the Xu family mansion. While I was in the elevator, it suddenly went out of order. It didn’t seem like a random occurrence. Instead, I felt like someone had caused it to happen intentionally. Chi Rui’er was also present in the elevator at the time, and I had a hunch that she was trying to harm me, but her plan failed to fall through. From now onwards, just pretend that you guys don’t know about what happened at the ancestral hall earlier. Make sure the servant who cleared the ashes remains tight-lipped, and also…”

She paused. “Mother, you have to pretend that your chest still hurts whenever you’re in front of others.”

“Alright.” After some thought, Mrs. Gu said, “I still think Dongcheng was the one behind it.”

“Whoever the culprit may be, the truth will be out in due time. His fiancee is definitely not one to be underestimated. We can only maintain the status quo for now. We’ll discuss everything together if there are any sudden changes.” An Xiaoning then took a look at the time and said, “I’ll be taking my leave first.”

“Sure.”

“Thank Heavens for Xiaoning, otherwise I wouldn’t have known what to do,” said Mrs. Gu, whose heart was still fluttering with fear.

“Mother, have a good rest. I’ll be heading to the office now,” said Gu Beicheng.

“Alright, drive safe.”

Gu Beicheng left the house and saw that An Xiaoning had yet to get into her car. He then quickly stopped her in her tracks, “Have you eaten?”

“No.”

“Shall we… have a meal together?” he asked with raised brows.

An Xiaoning chuckled and agreed, “Sure, let’s go. You lead the way.”

Gu Beicheng walked past her car and got into his. He began driving and led the way while An Xiaoning followed closely behind.

It had been a long time since they had a meal together outside of home. They sat down facing each other while Gu Beicheng ordered some of her favorite dishes.

“When are you planning to get married?” asked Gu Beicheng.

“I should be asking you that,” An Xiaoning answered smilingly.

“Why would you ask me that? I’m a lonely bachelor who doesn’t even have a girlfriend. There’s still a long way to go before I get married, unlike you. You’ve found the right person, and all the odds are in your favor. All you need is to say yes,” he said with a shrug.

“I actually have a fear of marriage. I don’t know why, but I feel more comfortable and carefree with the way I’m living now. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten married too many times. This would be my third marriage if I were to get married again,” An Xiaoning said truthfully.

“Meanwhile, I’ve never even been married once.”

“Hurry and look for a wife then. You can’t keep expecting girls to take the initiative and court you first. You have to open the windows to your heart, only then can Cupid strike you with his love arrow,” An Xiaoning said with a smile.

“Let’s not bring up such unhappy matters. How do you think I’m getting along with Elder Brother?”

Pursing her lips, An Xiaoning answered, “Shouldn’t you know that better than I do?”

“Indeed, no matter how harmonious we may seem on the surface, there’ll always be hidden thoughts we keep only to ourselves. After all, we’re half-brothers who don’t share the same mother. I reckon Elder Brother must be getting impatient and eager to marry Xu Youran. Well, because marrying her would bring him a great deal of benefits,” said Gu Beicheng, placing both his hands under his chin.

“Maybe they’re just using each other,” An Xiaoning remarked casually.

“Perhaps so. They’re already in their thirties and no longer young and reckless teenagers. They must’ve weighed the pros and cons carefully before deciding to get married,” said an unsurprised Gu Beicheng.

The dishes were served one by one. Gu Beicheng put on a pair of disposable gloves and began peeling some prawns. Helping herself to the food with a pair of chopsticks in hand, An Xiaoning said, “I’ve never dined at this restaurant before. You seem like you come here pretty often, though.”

“I’ve dined at almost every renowned restaurant in the city.”

“I have a nickname for you.”

“What is it?” he asked, handing her a peeled prawn.

An Xiaoning clasped the prawn with her chopsticks and said, “You don’t have to peel the prawns for me. Save the peeled ones for yourself. I can peel them myself.”

“I’m asking you, what’s the nickname you gave me?”

“Little Glutton.”

“Haha, you’re right,” Gu Beicheng agreed as he burst into laughter.

They had an enjoyable dinner, during which they cracked jokes with each other and chatted merrily. By the time she returned home, the children had already gone to school while Jin Qingyan was playing basketball with Fan Shixin.

Under the bright sun, An Xiaoning squinted to look at the two of them, who had athletic figures, and walked towards them while carrying her purse. She sat on a chair to watch their game, which ended when Jin Qingyan emerged victorious.

Holding a towel in hand, Jin Qingyan walked towards her and asked, “How did it go?”

“It’s settled. I didn’t sleep well last night, I’d like to go take a nap,” said An Xiaoning as she stifled a yawn.

“Let me accompany you?”

“It’s okay, I won’t be able to sleep with you around.”

He chuckled and said, “Go ahead, I’ll play with Shixin for a while more.”

“Okay.”

Chi Rui’er walked into the gynecologist’s office with her ultrasound scan report.

Due to the fact that her period was exceptionally heavy all of a sudden, she hurriedly rushed to the hospital without even having lunch. However, the gynecologist would only be in at two o’clock. Thus, she had no choice but to wait patiently for the gynecologist to report to work.

“Here, Doctor.”

The middle-aged female gynecologist took a look at her report before turning to face her. “Are you 29 years old this year?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“You’re suffering from a severe case of cervical erosion. It’s not quite shown clearly in the scans, but according to your description, the unusually heavy blood flow is a sign of an abnormality. So, we’re now going to perform a dilation and curettage surgery to stop the bleeding first before conducting a cervical biopsy on the tissue that is to be scraped off during the surgery.”

“What does that mean?” Chi Rui’er asked in fear and bewilderment.

“It means we’re going to check for cancerous cells in your uterine lining and cervix,” the gynecologist explained while scribbling on a receipt, which she then handed to Chi Rui’er. “Please make payment outside before coming back for the surgery.”

Chi Rui’er grabbed the receipt and felt like she was at a loss for what to do.

She turned around to make her payment outside, overwhelmed with nervousness and anxiety throughout.

I’m still so young. I’ve yet to even hit the big 30. I’m not going to get cancer , she attempted to comfort herself silently in her head.

After paying up, she entered the labor ward where she removed her pants and laid onto the hospital bed.

“Is it going to hurt a lot?”

“No, because I’ve given you a shot of anesthesia,” the doctor explained.

Chi Rui’er felt a slight sense of relief, though her tension had yet to easen up.

She grabbed onto the sides of the bed tightly.