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“I don’t know who my biological parents are. I was adopted at a young age. My adoptive parents sent me to live with my Master in the mountains where I spent my adolescent years. I only acknowledged the Gu family as my godparents when I was older,” An Xiaoning said upfront.

“Your biological parents must be looking for you urgently,” said a surprised Madam Xu.

“Why would they be eager to look for a child they abandoned?” An Xiaoning sneered.

“Boss, that fellow is calling you again!”

An Xiaoning whipped her mobile phone out from her pocket and realized that it was a call from Jin Qingyan.

“Hello.”

“…”

“I’m at the Xu family mansion now.”

“…”

“Okay.”

“…”

After ending the call, An Xiaoning looked up at the members of the Xu family and said, “Qingyan is making his way here now. I hope we’ll have a thorough discussion about the misdeeds Xu Youran has committed recently.”

“Get Youran to come home immediately,” Military Commander Xu instructed his son.

“Yes, Father.”

His younger son Xu Cai immediately gave his sister a call.

Xu Youran returned soon after Jin Qingyan arrived.

She immediately grew flustered and anxious at the sight of Jin Qingyan and An Xiaoning.

Staring at her sternly, Military Commander Xu questioned, “Tell us quickly, what have you done?”

Xu Youran stuttered in fright, afraid to admit to her doings. Xu Yang shot her a glance, as if to be telling her, “Stop trying to cover up. It’s not going to work.”

“Father, I don’t know how to explain it. To put things simply, I’ve done something wrong.”

Xu Youran admitted it straight away.

Perhaps because she knew it was a piece of cake for the Xu family to settle the matter.

That’s why…

Military Commander Xu stood up and walked towards her. “Have my words fallen on deaf ears? You didn’t abide by my instructions at all,” he admonished.

As soon as he finished speaking, he gave her a tight slap across her face and hollered, “How could you do that time and time again!”

Xu Youran stared at her father in utter shock and terror. Ever since she was adopted by the Xu family, her adoptive parents had been showering her with love and pampering her to bits. Not once had they ever laid a hand on her.

Madam Xu seemed to have something to say, though she kept it to herself in the end.

“Father, I was wrong. I won’t do it again.”

“Promise Ms. An you won’t do it again and apologize to her.”

Xu Youran knew that it would be too inappropriate not to express her apology.

She turned to face An Xiaoning and bowed down to her. “I’m sorry.”

An Xiaoning would have never bothered to waste her time making a trip down there if an apology was all she wanted to hear.

“Saying sorry means nothing to me. Military Commander and Madam Xu, I only have one request. I hope she will be put through a year of reform and receive her due punishment.”

“You mean to take her into custody for a year? Isn’t that the same as prison?” said Military Commander Xu as an austere expression formed on his face.

“Indeed. Otherwise, I don’t think Ms. Xu is really going to change her ways and turn over a new leaf.”

Although Madam Xu was gentle and sweet-tempered by nature, she could not help but huff, “Ms. An, we’ve already made her promise that she won’t do that to you again. Could you stop insisting…?”

“This is not the first time it’s happened. We hope that she will genuinely learn from her mistakes and repent, instead of continuing to commit such acts of misdeeds just because she knows her family will defend her. Fortunately, Xiaoning managed to escape this ordeal unscathed. Should anything happen to her, I, Jin Qingyan, will definitely not sit back and do nothing,” Jin Qingyan said firmly while holding on to An Xiaoning’s hand.

“Make it half a year, Xiaoning. She will undergo reform for half a year. If she repeats her mistake again in the future, we’ll stay out of it and leave it entirely to you guys to punish her,” Xu Yang conceded.

An Xiaoning stood up and said, “Head-of-Office Xu, I’ve recorded everything you said. Half a year it is, then. I hope she will truly change for the better this time, although I highly doubt it. I will prepare myself for another attack, nonetheless. If this happens again, I’ll upload all the evidence online. I’m afraid she won’t be the only person implicated when that happens. Military Commander Xu, please watch your daughter closely and take her in hand.”

“Yes,” the Military Commander assented.

“Qingyan, let’s go.”

Jin Qingyan left together with her, hand in hand.

After watching them leave, Xu Youran asked, “Father, you’re not really going to put me through reform, are you?”

“I am. I remember telling you again and again previously to not repeat your mistakes, yet you still refuse to repent. Youran, I’m very disappointed in you,” said Military Commander Xu, staring at her.

As soon as he finished speaking, he returned to his bedroom.

Teary-eyed, Madam Xu asked, “Youran, tell me, why did you do that? There must be a reason for everything. Tell me.”

“I just really detest her,” said Xu Youran, still refusing to reveal the underlying reason.

“Why? Did she do something that made you detest her?”

“I don’t know, I just really hate her for no apparent reason. Half a year of reform, huh? I’ll just get through it, no big deal,” said Xu Youran, clenching her fists in anger.

Xu Yang stood at the side without uttering a word.

Fan Shixin drove An Xiaoning’s car home while An Xiaoning took Jin Qingyan’s.

“I’m really so sick and tired of these unprecedented dangers. It makes me feel as if I have to constantly be in fear and on my guard every single day.”

“Shall we go to the beach to relax tomorrow?” Jin Qingyan suggested.

“I still have a case to handle. Let’s go when I’m done solving it instead,” said An Xiaoning, whose temples began throbbing all of a sudden.

“Alright.”

“The case I’m working on now is pretty tricky. Under what circumstance, apart from a muscle cramp in his legs or suicide, would a man drown, despite knowing how to swim?”

After a moment of pondering in silence while staring at the road ahead, Jin Qingyan answered, “I really can’t think of a reason. Unless he’s mentally unsound, it’s very unlikely that a good swimmer would drown if not because of a muscle cramp or suicide.”

“Makes sense.”

In the evening, at a certain hotel, Lin Mingxi arrived to see that Gu Beicheng was there before her.

“Order the dishes,” he said while handing her the menu.

Lin Mingxi took the menu from his hands and asked awkwardly, “What would you like to have?”

“I’m fine with anything. You decide.”

Lin Mingxi expressed assent and proceeded to order a few dishes, which included pumpkin porridge, before handing the menu to the waiter.

“I thought… you’d definitely not want to meet me again.”

“I thought so too. But my mother thinks you’re a good catch, thus I decided to get to know you better,” Gu Beicheng said coldly.

Lin Mingxi was not upset by his words. Instead, a faint smile formed on her face as she said, “You must be the type who puts love above all else.”

“You can tell?”

“Because I belong to that type. I’ve been through several matchmaking sessions and even tried getting to know them better, but nothing fruitful has come out of it. It’s an absolute torture to be with someone you don’t fancy at all,” Lin Mingxi said truthfully.

“Have you had any boyfriends in the past?”

Lin Mingxi chuckled and said, “Would you believe me if I said I haven’t?”

“Aren’t you already 29 years old? You seriously never had any before?” Gu Beicheng asked apprehensively with raised brows.

“I really haven’t had a proper boyfriend before. Those whom I adored never reciprocated my feelings for them while those who fancied me were simply not to my liking. I haven’t found someone I could hit it off with. So, I’ve actually become indifferent towards matchmaking nowadays,” Lin Mingxi explained, smiling wryly.

Staring at her, Gu Beicheng asked, “Would you like to have some liquor?”

“Sure, let’s have a drink or two then. Alcohol makes everything better,” Lin Mingxi said smilingly.

Gu Beicheng gestured for the water to approach and ordered, “Bring us a bottle of whiskey.”