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Seeing how relaxed she was, Jin Qingyan decided to suppress his anger and pulled her into his embrace as he said, “Just let it out if you’re upset. Don’t bottle up your feelings.”

“As your wife, I ought to stay vigilant and resistant towards the evil-doings of others. I know she had always disliked me, but I did not expect her to detest me to such an extent. Well, I guess I can understand why. I’ll stay out of her matters from now on, and don’t ask me anything about her ever again,” An Xiaoning said coldly as she looked up at him.

“Alright.”

——

“Brother, why are you looking at me like that?” asked Jin Qingyue, easing herself into a comfortable position on the couch.

“Qingyue, how I have been treating you since you were young? Tell me truthfully,” Jin Qingyan said sternly.

“Very well. You’ve always doted on me.”

Puzzled, Mrs. Jin asked, “Qingyan, did something happen?”

He looked down and answered, “Hmm, Qingyue hired someone under the disguise of a silicone face mask to mail a bunch of rat carcasses to Xiaoning. It happened three times in total. After some investigation, we found out that she was the culprit.”

“What!” Mrs. Jin exclaimed in disbelief as she turned to look at Mr. Jin. She then glared at Jin Qingyue angrily and hollered, “Tell me, is what your brother said true!?!”

Jin Qingyue would never admit to it, of course. “What do you mean? Of course it isn’t true. How could I have done something like that, especially since she’s my sister-in-law?” she denied.

“We’ve already caught and interrogated the woman you hired. She spilled the beans and revealed that you were the one who had instigated everything. We’ve also tracked the IP address of the phone number you had used to contact her, and it all led to you. Jin Qingyue, do you take me for a fool?” he questioned, staring at her coldly.

Jin Qingyue pinched the couch nervously, too afraid to look him in the eye. She tried to leave after putting on her shoes but was stopped by Jin Qingyan. “Where do you think you’re going? Sit down now,” he ordered.

“I’m going upstairs to catch some sleep,” she said, trying to escape once again but to no avail. Finally, she admitted, “Fine, I was the one who did it, but so what? I admit, I did hire someone to mail her the dead rats.”

Before she knew it, Mrs. Jin gave her a tight slap across her face, causing her ears to ring from the impact. “Mother, you actually slapped me!” she cried, staring at Mrs. Jin in disbelief.

“You deserved to be slapped, didn’t you? Just what did your sister-in-law do to deserve such treatment from you? You’d better come up with a good explanation for what you did!” snapped Mrs Jin as she flew into an uncontrollable rage.

Jin Qingyue was just as furious. She lamented angrily, “I just hate her, alright? I won’t deny that she’s indeed pretty capable, but I can’t stand the fact that you guys believe her completely and try every possible way to stop me from being in a relationship with Shaochuan. Don’t think I don’t know what she had been saying about me behind my back. You guys tried to have my fate changed, just so I would break up with Shaochuan. But let me tell you, I won’t let you have it your way, ever!”

Mrs. Jin was at a loss for words, momentarily dumbstruck. “How… how did you find out…” she stuttered.

“Of course I did. I overheard you guys talking about it, but I’ve been stopping myself from exposing you. Have you ever considered how I felt? We were getting along really well at the start, but because of the seeds of discord you had been trying to sow between us, we’ve ended up arguing almost every other day. I’ve really had enough! I am definitely going to marry Shaochuan, and my decision is final. No one can stop me, not even Heaven!” Jin Qingyue reiterated while staring angrily at her brother and parents.

Seeing how adamant she was, Jin Qingyan interjected blatantly, “Let me tell you this, you’re free to marry whoever you want for all I care. But before that, bring the rat carcasses before your sister-in-law and apologize to her for what you’ve done. Otherwise, I won’t let you off!”

“I’m not going. Over my dead body,” Jin Qingyue refuted, giving him the side-eye.

“Qingyue, you’d better do as I instructed. We’ll put a full stop to this matter once you apologize. If you still refuse to go, I’ll have to deal with you in my own ways.” With a squint, he continued, “Shi Shaochuan ran Wang Fangfang over and proceeded to strangle her to death. He actually had the heart to subject a woman who was in love with him and carried his child to such treatment. I highly doubt he will ever be true to you or treat you well wholeheartedly.”

“That’s bullshit! Wang Fangfang died at the instant that she got run over. Shaochuan didn’t strangle her to death,” Jin Qingyue protested, extremely agitated.

“The forensic autopsy report revealed that the cause of her death was asphyxiation, and there were apparent welts on her neck which resulted from being strangled. If you weren’t involved in this matter, he would have received capital punishment long ago, for murder. Qingyue, I’ve told you the truth about everything that happened. If you continue being so obstinate and insistent on going about your willful ways, then you’ll only have yourself to blame when you face the consequences in the future. No one is going to help you.”

Jin Qingyan left as soon as he finished his sentence.

In extremely low spirits, Jin Qingyue ran upstairs, back to her room.

Mr. and Mrs. Jin were left alone in the living room.

Overwhelmed with anger and agitation, Mrs. Jin began to tear up while covering her face with her hand.

“That’s enough, why are you crying?” Mr. Jin consoled.

“Didn’t you see… she was so stubborn and headstrong.”

“She’ll find a way out herself. Since she’s so bent on marrying him, just let her be.”

“Are we really going to watch her dig her own grave blindly?”

“It may seem like a grave to us, but perhaps from her perspective, it’s a path to happiness.”

Mrs. Jin let out a helpless sigh.

——

Chi Rui’er had spent the entire afternoon brushing her teeth vigorously, such that her gums were almost swollen.

She could not get over the repulsing thought of having ingested so much rat meat.

She stuck her finger down her throat in a bid to induce vomiting and throw up everything she had eaten.

What she had once seen as a delicacy had now become extremely nauseating.

Her hatred towards An Xiaoning grew even deeper.

What made her even more bitter was Jin Qingyan’s cold and nonchalant attitude.

A million unfathomable thoughts began to flood Chi Rui’er’s mind as she stared at her reflection in the mirror.

It had never occurred to her that she would be reduced to such a pitiful plight one day. Although she was materially comfortable and could afford almost anything she wanted, she could never have the heart of the person she loved the most.

Firstly, there was Gu Beicheng, whom she thought would love her wholeheartedly, since she had already become his girlfriend. Yet, little did she expect that she’d turn out not standing a chance at all.

Then, there was Jin Qingyan, who had once loved her. However, it was all too late when she realized what she had, and he had long been out of her reach before she even came to her senses.

“Ms. Chi… are you alright?” the cook asked upon noticing that she had not once left the bathroom throughout the entire afternoon. It did not help that Chi Rui’er had also been mumbling to herself incessantly, which was in fact rather worrying.

“It’s none of your business, get lost!” she snapped.

Her sudden rage had startled the cook, who then closed the door and left. Upon noticing the cook retreating in shock, the bodyguard could not help but reveal the cause of Chi Rui’er’s behavior. “She deserved it!” the cook muttered under her breath as soon as she heard what had happened.

Chi Rui’er finally came out of the bathroom and plonked herself down onto the bed, not wanting to move another inch.

She stared out of the window blankly and watched as the sky gradually turned from bright to pitch dark. With the heater switched off, the room was cold and empty, just like her heart.

Having eaten nothing at all, she laid on the bed, all listless and sluggish.

A painful lump had swelled up in her throat. It throbbed in pain, making her feel worse than ever.

She did not have the appetite to eat or the mood to go out. In fact, she could not even fall asleep. There was nothing she was interested in doing. She felt just like a walking zombie.

Feeling lonely and aimless, she lay on the bed and began scrolling through her phone mindlessly, with the TV switched on in the background.

A 50-second commercial advertising a well-known brand of sanitary pads began to play on the screen. It suddenly came to Chi Rui’er’s mind that she had not been using any of those in a long while.

She tried to recall the last time Aunt Flo had paid her a visit and began to sense something was amiss.

It was normal for menstrual cycles to be late for up to a week. However, hers had been late for way longer than that!

Could she be plagued with a gynecological disease? Or was she… pregnant?