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An Xiaoning opened the door and alighted from the car. “Let’s meet at the Civil Administration Bureau at 3 PM,” she said to Jin Qingyan, then she quickly waved him goodbye while closing the door.

Watching her figure recede, Jin Qingyan began to develop a mix of emotions.

——

Within just 10 minutes, news of Jin Qingyan’s marriage broke out and the word spread fast. The breaking news made the headlines of tabloids and was broadcasted across primetime TV channels all over the world.

The Jin family did not intentionally try to conceal the identity of the bride, An Xiaoning, either.

Netizens soon found out that the bride was actually An Xiaoning, who had caught her ex-husband and his mistress red-handed in front of the supermarket at Bin Jiang Avenue last night. They could not understand how she got so lucky — getting married in the afternoon, right after she filed for a divorce in the morning.

This was especially due to the fact that wealthy families are usually known to abstain from the taboo of selecting daughter-in-laws who were once married. Besides, Jin Qingyan was too much of a great catch to have to marry a divorced woman like An Xiaoning.

It did not make any sense at all.

After getting her hair done at the salon, An Xiaoning overheard the women next to her gossiping about her marriage. A mix of emotions stirred within her.

“Did you hear? Jin Qingyan is getting married!” Woman A exclaimed loudly to Woman B. “The bride is a divorcee who just filed for her divorce this morning. How outrageous!” she continued.

“Do you have a photo of her?”

“Yes, here’s a CCTV footage of her exposing her husband last night. Oh my god, look how short she is… Can her waist get any thicker? She must be a plain Jane who looks nothing more than ordinary.”

“You’re right. Mr. Jin must be blind to have chosen her!”

“Well, she must be really good in bed. Why else would he be attracted to her?”

“Exactly…”

Taking a deep breath, An Xiaoning urged herself to stay still and endure the humiliation just a little longer until all of her sleek, straight hair had been curled.

After making her payment at the cashier, she stormed furiously towards the two women and confronted them, “It’s me, An Xiaoning! Excuse you, please have a thorough look at me. Do I have a short stature and a thick waist like you said?”

“Oh, um… Certainly not,” answered Woman B, mellowing her tone significantly.

“Thank you,” An Xiaoning said with an assertive smile. She left confidently.

Boiling with rage as she exited the salon, she immediately proceeded to buy herself two other sets of expensive and classy clothing. She did not want to be branded as a bride who was as unstylish as a country bumpkin.

With her arms full of shopping bags, An Xiaoning strode quickly towards Jin Qingyan, who had arrived on time at the Civil Administration Bureau and was waiting for her. After placing the shopping bags in his car, she turned to him and asked, “Mr. Jin, how do you like my new hairstyle and outfit?”

Jin Qingyan kept his eyes steadily on An Xiaoning, almost not recognizing her new look.

He already thought she looked pretty and intelligent, exuding a pure and refined demeanor. However, he never knew that she could transform into a ravishing beauty with just a change of outfit and hairstyle, along with some exquisite make up tailored to her features.

“You look amazing,” said Jin Qingyan. He took her hand. “Let’s enter.”

An Xiaoning gazed at him. She would forever remember this day — the sunny afternoon sun cast its rays on them; he was dressed in a white-collared shirt beneath a sleek black suit while she donned a white women’s collared shirt, along with a cream-colored knitted wool cardigan. Together, they made their way down the aisle, becoming an officially married couple despite being unsure of what the future holds.

A picture taken against a red background showed the pair of newlyweds, both clad in a white-collared shirt, as they smiled broadly for the camera.

On the 26th of September, they registered their marriage.

There was no one else living in the villa but Jin Qingyan, with the exception of the part-time cleaner who visited at fixed times to clean and tidy his house. To him, his house was nothing more than a place for him to sleep in. It was akin to a long-term stay in a hotel, allowing him to leave early in the morning, and only returning for a night’s sleep every day.

Once they arrived home, An Xiaoning headed straight to his bedroom to replace the bedsheets. Her imagination ran wild as she got reminded about the plum-red bloodstain from the night before. Images of Jin Qingyan lying on top of her began to flood her mind…

A fuzzy warmth filled her heart as she thought about it.

“Boss, someone’s calling you again!” An Xiaoning’s ringtone cranked. Looking at the caller display, she felt a strong reluctance to pick up the call.

“Yes, Father?” An Xiaoning answered anyway.

“You’d better come back home right now!” An Xiaoning’s father roared with uncontrollable fury.

“Okay.”

An Xiaoning ended the call and proceeded downstairs.

“I have to make a trip back home,” she said while putting on her shoes near the door.

“I’ll go with you,” suggested Jin Qingyan.

“It’s fine,” she rejected.

“Did you forget that we’re already married now? Why can’t I meet your parents?” he replied, insisting on accompanying her home.

Seeing how persistent he was, she agreed at last. It was not that An Xiaoning was strongly against the idea of him tagging along. In fact, she was just ashamed of her parents’ nasty and loathsome demeanor.

After an hour’s journey along the expressway, they finally arrived at a village house situated at the foot of a hill, next to a stream.

The white Bentley sped through the village entrance and gradually came to a halt in front of An Xiaoning’s house.

A commotion broke out as the villagers gathered around the car, engaging in a discussion as they scrutinized the Bentley, which was a rather rare sight. Unfazed, An Xiaoning alighted and turned a blind eye to the crowd, not greeting them at all. Her actions caught Jin Qingyan by surprise, for he had always found her to be polite.

“Why did you go ahead with a divorce without discussing with your mother and me, beforehand? It is such a serious matter!” hollered an enraged Mr. An, who was chopping some firewood. He seemed so angry he might throw the ax at her.

“Well, I didn’t see a need to. Just like how you didn’t, when you agreed to marry me off back then,” argued An Xiaoning. “You and Mother insisted on having Fang Fang move in with the Shi Family. Now that Fang Fang and Shi Shaochuan have committed adultery, do I not have a good enough reason to divorce him?” she continued.

“Ever since you were born, there had been no peace for you at all in this family. We had a hard time marrying you off, yet you decided to file for a divorce. Xiaoning, it is only normal for a man to have an affair. At the end of the day, you’d still be his lawful wife. What are you going to do now that you are divorced? Who’s going to marry you next?” said An Xiaoning’s mother earnestly while coming out of the house.

“Greetings Father and Mother-in-law, Xiaoning and I have registered our marriage this afternoon. You no longer have to worry about her being left on the shelves,” said Jin Qingyan, stepping forward to greet her parents.

An Xiaoning’s parents looked at each other in dismay, then looked Jin Qingyan up and down. Beaming with pleasure, Mrs. An quickly welcomed Jin Qingyan into their house. “Hurry, come in. If you didn’t mention about the marriage, Xiaoning’s Dad and I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

An Xiaoning’s parents understood that their daughter had gotten married to Jin Qingyan in the afternoon, shortly after settling her divorce with Shi Shaochuan in the morning. The realization that Jin Qingyan was a far better catch than their previous son-in-law sparked a sudden, significant shift in their attitude. They hurriedly proceeded to prepare a sumptuous feast to welcome him. They even criticized Shi Shaochuan and An Xiaoning’s cousin, Fang Fang, for betraying her, agreeing completely with An Xiaoning’s decision to divorce him — the complete opposite of their initial reaction.

Just as they were about to leave, Mrs. An pulled An Xiaoning to a corner and asked eagerly, “Since you’ve already registered your marriage, when will the wedding be?”

“Next Monday,” she replied coldly.

“What about the betrothal gifts? Or did you pocket it? How much did they offer?” Mrs. An bombarded An Xiaoning with questions, staring at her acquisitively.

Completely ignoring her mother, An Xiaoning turned away and left.

“Hey, hey, hey! You haven’t answered your mother!” Mrs. An exclaimed.

An Xiaoning hopped onto the car and instructed Jin Qingyan to start driving straight away, once again disregarding her mother.