The initially half-drunk An Xiaoning felt her entire body stiffen. She soon sobered up completely.
The dining table was like a battlefield that afternoon on which they kept at it for a little less than an hour before finally calling it a day.
An Xiaoning’s legs felt like jelly, so much so that she almost fell when she tried to get down from the table.
Glowering at Jin Qingyan, she slowly made her way upstairs.
Jin Qingyan then proceeded to clear up some of the mess and ordered Auntie Chen to prepare some broth to sober the others up.
All energized and rejuvenated, he eased himself onto the couch and began reading newspapers as if nothing had happened at all.
An Xiaoning took a hot bath, changed into a fresh set of clothes, and put on some light makeup. She then headed downstairs, only to discover that everyone had already come to.
Mei Yangyang and Long Tianze had sat up straight against the couch. They appeared to be rather groggy still.
Chi Rui’er sipped on the tea Auntie Chen had brought her.
“Yangyang, let’s return to the store,” said An Xiaoning.
“What store? You’ve been going out early and returning home late recently. What have you been busy with?” asked Jin Qingyan.
“I’ve opened a store. I’ll get going,” answered An Xiaoning as she left together with Mei Yangyang.
“Tsk, seriously what kind of husband are you? You’re not even aware of what your wife has been doing out there,” mocked Long Tianze.
“I’ll be aware of whatever she does only if she chooses to tell me about it. I have to leave for the office,” said Jin Qingyan as he put on his suit.
One after another, everyone stood up and left through the door. Jin Qingyue stopped Chi Rui’er in her tracks and said, “I’ll give you a lift.”
Chi Rui’er nodded in response. She had initially planned to hail a cab, but since Jin Qingyue had offered her a ride, she did not see a reason to turn her down.
“Where do you live?”
“Wei Ni Estate,” answered Chi Rui’er.
“Why are you putting up at my brother’s estate?” asked a surprised Jin Qingyue, who could not believe her ears.
“It’s only temporary.”
“Tell me the truth, what’s between you and my brother now? I heard you broke up with Gu Beicheng.”
“We’ve broken up for quite some time now. I’m just friends with your brother. Now that he’s married, what else can there be between us?” answered Chi Rui’er with a smile.
“That can’t be. If you two are just friends, why would my brother be willing to let you put up there? Even my sister-in-law had never stayed there before. Besides, divorce is rampant and only normal in today’s society. To be honest, I’m aware of my brother’s feelings towards you all these years. It was rather dubious of you to gift him with a shirt for his birthday today. It was such a meticulous gift. Didn’t you see how upset my sister-in-law was?” scoffed Jin Qingyue.
“I didn’t know what to get your brother since he already has everything he needs. Thus, I decided to just buy him something he’d like. In hindsight, it was indeed a little inappropriate,” said Chi Rui’er, lowering her head.
“I can tell my sister-in-law doesn’t fancy seeing you. She didn’t even speak to you when you were there, did she? My sister-in-law’s really something, though. My brother wouldn’t have married her otherwise,” Jin Qingyue chuckled.
Chi Rui’er asked hesitantly, “Why is she something?”
“Didn’t you know? My sister-in-law is capable of fortune-telling, and her readings are pretty accurate. My Mother and Grandma like her a lot, which is why she could marry my brother so easily. How else would that’ve been possible?” answered Jin Qingyue. Although she had addressed An Xiaoning as her sister-in-law, she actually completely disregarded the latter, deep down.
“I’ve heard about that from your brother. I don’t have such abilities, though,” said Chi Rui’er.
Before long, they had arrived at the entrance of the mansion in Wei Ni Estate. “Thank you for the lift home,” said Chi Rui’er.
Jin Qingyue waved her goodbye. “No problem, bye.”
Chi Rui’er waved back at her as she alighted.
The moment she turned around, the initial smile on her face faded substantially.
After changing into her home slippers, she plonked herself onto the couch and ordered, “Bring me a cup of tea.”
The helper then hurriedly brought a cup of tea as instructed and placed it onto the coffee table while Chi Rui’er leaned against the couch. “What’s the big deal with being able to tell fortunes?” she snorted with contempt after an entire day of suppressing her displeasure.
She whipped out her mobile phone and sent Jin Qingyan a text message to invite him over for dinner. However, he had rejected her tactfully, with the excuse of having to spend the evening with his wife at home.
Chi Rui’er grew into an uncontrollable rage and cast her mobile phone aside angrily. At that very moment, she herself became convinced that they were indeed nothing more than just friends, that he had an actual wife.
But she knew that he loved her. An Xiaoning would lose her place instantly as long as she was willing to marry him.
Then again, she did not want to tell Jin Qingyan directly and ask for him to get a divorce with An Xiaoning. It would make her seem like a homewrecker.
Was there any way to cause them to get a divorce, without coming off as a shameless and unrefined woman? she thought.
Chi Rui’er sunk deep into her thoughts, bombarding herself with a bunch of questions.
The sound of a text message notification could be heard coming from her mobile phone. Thinking that it was a text from Jin Qingyan, she hurriedly picked up her phone, only to realize that it was from her stepfather instead.
She opened the text message, which read: Your Mother wants to see you, she wants you home .
She quickly proceeded to call her mother, who was indeed at home. Chi Rui’er then swiftly got up, changed out of her slippers, and made her way back home in the Northern suburbs.
By the time she arrived home, her mother had already prepared a spread of homemade dumplings on the dining table.
“Your mother made you some dumplings because she missed you. You haven’t been home in so long, yet you don’t even bother dropping by for a visit,” said her stepfather, smiling benevolently.
She did not bother answering him, however. “Mom, how has your health been lately?” she asked as she sat next to her mother.
“Great, everything had been fine, with your father taking care of me.” Handing Chi Rui’er a pair of chopsticks, her mother said, “The dumplings are made with your favorite filling. Here, have some before they turn cold.”
She took the pair of chopsticks from her mother and began digging in.
What a familiar taste it was. If it weren’t for her Mother’s request, the last thing Chi Rui’er would want to do is to step foot into that house. In fact, she had planned to leave together with her mother. However, she decided not to in the end and thus did not inform her mother of the reason. Instead, she just let the matter drag on.
After finishing the dumplings, she sat next to her mother and chatted with her until the latter was tired. Chi Rui’er then informed them that she was leaving.
“You’ve made it all the way back here, why don’t you just stay the night?” said her stepfather, trying to stop her.
“Nah.” She insisted on leaving.
“Let your father send you,” said her mother.
“It’s fine,” she answered as she picked up her bag hurriedly and left through the door.
Little did she expect for her stepfather to chase after her.
Chi Rui’er picked up her pace and made it in time for the public bus. She quickly boarded, unaware that her stepfather had tagged along.
He sat right next to her and stared at her sideways.
Just as she was about to make a call, he grabbed her by her hand and said with a mellow voice, “Rui’er, you’re all grown up and independent now. But Father isn’t old and muddle-headed just yet. If you continue to be so rebellious, I’m going to have to punish you.”
Glaring daggers at him, she warned, “If you keep being like this, I’m going to tell Mom about it.”
“It’s up to you to say whatever you want. I’ll just remind you, your mother is plagued with a heart disease, she might just get a heart attack and pass on upon hearing what you have to say. If you’d like that to happen, it’s fine by me too. At least I’ll be without a burden.”
Chi Rui’er felt helpless and as if there was nothing she could do. She cocked her head towards the window and ignored him for the rest of the journey.
After alighting from the bus, Wei Ni Estate was still quite a distance away from where she was. Thus, she had to take another detour bus before she could arrive home. At that moment, she instantly regretted turning down the offer for a ride home.