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Facing his back, An Xiaoning pursed her lips and checked the time on her mobile phone. “It’s almost 8 AM. I’d better get going and sign the divorce papers with Shi Shaochuan at the Civil Administration Bureau,” she said hurriedly.

——

An Xiaoning arrived at the Civil Administration Bureau, only to find that Shi Shaochuan had unexpectedly arrived before her.

She alighted from the car after instructing Jin Qingyan to wait at a parking lot farther away.

An Xiaoning and Shi Shaochuan were the first couple of the day to file for a divorce at the Civil Administration Bureau, the doors of which opened punctually at 8 AM in the morning.

“Pass me your personal identification card and household register,” instructed Shi Shaochuan.

Doing as she was told, An Xiaoning handed him the items.

He then submitted their personal identification cards and household register, along with the relevant materials required to file for a divorce, which was processed rather quickly.

“I had the best sleep of my life last night, knowing that I’ll never have to see you in my home again,” said Shi Shaochuan, looking at An Xiaoning as they exited the Civil Administration Bureau.

“Don’t rejoice too soon, Shi Shaochuan. I bet you don’t know the real reason behind your grandfather’s wish for you to marry me,” An Xiaoning retorted.

“What is the reason?” asked Shi Shaochuan.

“It’s because he asked about your fortune — all your marriages are destined to fail, no matter how many times you get married. I would be the only one to stay with you forever, if only you’d choose me. Unfortunately, you didn’t know any better.”

An Xiaoning answered him confidently, showing a contented smile.

Shi Shaochuan watched as her figure receded.

“You’re just a swindle trying to fool me with your nonsense!” he exclaimed, but only after she was far away from him.

As she was approaching Jin Qingyan’s car, she tore the certificate of divorce into pieces before disposing it into a dustbin nearby. “Let’s go,” she said, hopping onto the car.

They returned to Jin Qingyan’s home for breakfast before heading, along with his family members, to the house where the parents of the deceased child were living in.

Upon understanding their purpose of visit, the parents brought them to their child’s grave.

An Xiaoning placed the paper clothes together with the gold ingots and handed them to Mrs. Jin so that the older woman could burn them. Meanwhile, she began a chant. After she finished chanting, she turned to the child’s mother and said, “Your child would like to have a piece of your clothing as an emblem of remembrance. Why don’t you burn him this piece you’re wearing? His eyes have turned red from continuous crying. What a poor child.”

Upon hearing An Xiaoning’s words, the child’s mother broke into tears yet again. She removed the cardigan she was wearing and dropped it into the fire.

At the end of her ritual, An Xiaoning said, “He’s gone now. It’s time for us to leave.”

On the journey home, she couldn’t help but notice the child’s mother tearing up uncontrollably. In a bid to comfort her, An Xiaoning said, “This is your child’s destined fate. Try not to be too upset about it. He used to be a servant boy at the Temple of Tudi[Tudi: a Chinese mythical god — God of Earth]. He ought to return to the Heavens after becoming your son. That’s just his destiny, except as his parents, you do deserve some sympathy.”

The child’s mother felt a huge sense of relief after hearing what An Xiaoning said, and she thanked her profusely.

An Xiaoning instructed Mrs. Jin in the car while they were on the way home. “Your calf will be fine from now on. However, you ought to be more careful in the month of November this year. In fact, it’s better that you stay at home, for there will be a looming threat of a fatal disaster.”

Mrs. Jin’s relief was short-lived. Fearful of the disaster An Xiaoning had mentioned, she quickly asked, “Xiaoning, could you please tell me what disaster it would be?”

“I won’t go into detail, but I strongly advise you to take my word seriously, and just stay home for the entire month of November,” persuaded An Xiaoning.

“Yes, I will,” said Mrs. Jin, nodding abidingly.

“I truly adore you, Xiaoning! If only Qingyan had the fortune of marrying such a great wife like you,” exclaimed the old Mrs. Jin.

Recalling his misunderstanding with An Xiaoning, Jin Qingyan thought to himself, Could it be that she’s so ignorant about relationships because she grew up in the mountains?

He found her to be rather pure and innocent.

After all, she should have known that she would definitely feel a certain soreness in her lower body, had they really done the deed last night.

“Last night, Xiaoning and I… We shared the same bed,” Jin Qingyan confessed, coughing in between.

Not expecting Jin Qingyan to bring up the matter, An Xiaoning instantly turned red as a tomato and glared at him with her face flushed, staring daggers.

“Xiaoning, is that true?” said Mrs. Jin and the old Mrs. Jin in unison, both breaking into an approving smile.

“Well, we had a bit too much to drink that night…” An Xiaoning explained and tacitly agreed.

“Xiaoning, since you’ve already done the deed with Qingyan, I shall decide for you two. Why don’t you get married?” proposed the old Mrs. Jin joyously.

Already expecting his grandmother to come up with such an idea, Jin Qingyan did not have much of a reaction, unlike An Xiaoning who was dumbfounded.

“Get married? But, I just signed my divorce papers this morning, Grandma,” she said bluntly.

“Do you have children?” asked the old Mrs. Jin.

“No, I never lived together with my ex-husband ever since we got married,” answered An Xiaoning.

Believing An Xiaoning, the old Mrs. Jin exclaimed, “That’s great! We don’t mind that you were once married.”

With a faint sneer on his lips, Jin Qingyan thought, Grandma doesn’t mind that she had been married before, simply because she isn’t Rui’er.

From the bottom of her heart, An Xiaoning truly felt that Jin Qingyan was a great catch — he had an accomplished career, and he was extremely polite and gentle.

Although he sometimes puts on airs — a formidable, standoffish aura — feelings can be nurtured.

Moreover, for someone who doesn’t quite have a family, she wanted nothing more than a warm one.

“But, both parties have to be willing to get married.”

“Qingyan, what do you think of Xiaoning?” the old Mrs. Jin asked her grandson.

“Just like you, I too agree that she’s a great choice for a wife. I’ve always thought that way, ever since the moment I first saw her,” he answered.

An Xiaoning remained silent. She was at a loss for words.

On the other hand, Mrs. Jin and the old Mrs. Jin were elated. They were happier than ever, for they were extremely pleased with their new future daughter-in-law.

“We shall discuss the details of your marriage once we get home. What a glorious day! I can’t help but adore Xiaoning more and more,” the old Mrs. Jin said, smiling warmly.

An Xiaoning did not see the marriage as a big deal since she had already given herself to him. Well, at least, that was what she thought.

Most importantly, it was a testament to how attractive she was, which she wanted to show the Shi Family.

An Xiaoning had initially planned to pack her bags and find a lodging place once she arrived back at Jin Qingyan’s house. However, with a sudden twist of fate, she was getting married instead.

“Qingyan, when do you think is a good time to hold the wedding?” asked the old Mrs. Jin.

“I think we should register our marriage first, this afternoon. The wedding should be held on an auspicious date, and next Monday would be perfect,” Jin Qingyan suggested in a poised and serious manner. “A week should be enough to make the necessary arrangements,” he continued.

The old Mrs. Jin was taken aback by her grandson’s response, for it was rather unusual of him to agree to get married so hastily.

“Of course, that would be great,” the old Mrs. Jin agreed anyway.

After dropping his family off, An Xiaoning and Jin Qingyan were left alone in the car. They made their way back to his house. “Is the marriage too rushed? After all, you barely know me,” she asked, worried that they might be taking things too quickly.

“Fret not, we will have ample time to get to know each other better after we get married. I actually considered our marriage seriously beforehand, so you don’t have to worry that I agreed to it in a moment of rashness. I’m not the type to treat marriage like child’s play,” he replied.

“Pull over,” requested An Xiaoning.

“What do you want to do?” asked Jin Qingyuan.

“Now that I have money, of course I have to make myself presentable. As your wife, it’s my duty to bring you glory,” she answered.