Dusk quickly sneaked on them. Guo Xuehua had just arrived home after a run to the market. Minjuan was escorting Lanlan back from her kindergarten.
Dressed in a blue denim jacket, black stockings and a short skirt, the child resembled an angel.
Lanlan was already familiarising herself with Guo Xuehua, as she adorably called out ‘Grandma’ and dashed lovingly towards her, offering to help with her bags of groceries.
If it was other children her age, they wouldn’t have been able to lift that weight. But Lanlan was a ‘special’ kid, so Guo Xuehua accepted her offer to help.
Minjuan noticed the strange expression on Guo Xuehua’s face, as she curiously asked, “Are you okay? You don’t look so good.”
Guo Xuehua replied with a smile, “I’m fine, I guess my age is catching up on me.”
“Oh, that’s gonna take a while!”
Minjuan was clearly just comforting her, which led to Guo Xuehua’s halfhearted nod in response.
As the trio entered the house, Wang Ma brought the groceries into the kitchen and instantly started to work on dinner, alongside tomorrow’s festive ritual preparations.
As agreed, Yang Chen was supposed to invite Xue Zhiqing over for a meal for the Chongyang festival, but now that they both have yet to appear, Guo Xuehua was again starting to worry.
She contemplated on whether to make the call, uncertain if he would even pick up.
Right at that moment, the front gate swung open. A familiar loud and scruffy voice resonated throughout the house.
“Haha...Mum, Wang Ma, Wifey, I’m back! Huh, where’s everyone? Chubs?”
Lanlan, who was lazing on the couch, was the first to react as she furiously stomped her little feet, hopping off the couch and shooting towards Yang Chen at lightning speed!
Yang Chen was in open arms awaiting her, but was instead greeted with successive punches from two petite fists pounding on his chest!
With the strength of Lanlan’s punches that went, it would have laid waste on most others.
“Bad uncle bad uncle! I said, never, call me Chubs!”
Yang Chen burst into laughter. Absence seemingly did make his heart grow fonder as his absence the past days made him miss Lanlan more than most, even his own mother.
He found her irresistibly adorable, he couldn’t help but gave her a huge smooch on the cheek!
“If you punch me like that again, Chubs, I’m gonna eat you!” Yang Chen playfully threatened.
Lanlan felt the damp feeling on her cheeks but was nonetheless still terrified as she struggled and wriggled from Yang Chen’s embrace and ran as far as she could.
Guo Xuehua came out from the kitchen to check on the ruckus. “Stop scaring the child like that, must I remind you that you eat like a pig too? Besides, I was starting to think you forgot what day it is tomorrow.”
Yang Chen ruffled his hair. “I was actually considering only coming home tomorrow, but I found everything I needed so there wasn’t a reason to stay. Oh, I sent Zhiqing back home to rest for the night. She’ll come over tomorrow.”
Guo Xuehua nodded before she made up her mind. She then whispered. “Son, come upstairs with me. I have some things I need to talk to you about.”
Yang Chen was confused but quickly realized that Guo Xuehua was being serious, which led him to obediently do as he was told.
After Yang Chen tailed her into the room, Guo Xuehua shut the door. “Yang Chen, do you think there’s something off about Lin Ruoxi recently?”
Yang Chen was confused. “Off? In what way? I haven’t been here for the past few days, how should I know?”
“As in...are you aware that Ruoxi is meeting some strange people?”
Yang Chen chuckled. “And how exactly would I know that? She goes to work Mom, there are many big customers, do those count?”
Guo Xuehua sighed. “Why can’t you just pay closer attention to her. You have to be more attentive with the people around her…”
Yang Chen seemed to have grasped the situation, as he frowned. “Mum, if there’s something you want to tell me then just get straight to the point already, stop beating around the bush.”
Guo Xuehua uncomfortably retrieved her handphone, searched her gallery for a particular photo she took this afternoon and handed it to her son.
“This man, do you know him?”
Yang Chen carelessly took the phone over, gave a quick glance, but his gaze quickly stuck on one person.
Guo Xuehua heard his remark and quickly added. “His name is Li Jianhe? So you do know him. What does he do? Why…”
“Mom” Yang Chen interrupted. With a dull expression, he then added, “How did you get this photo?”
Guo Xuehua quickly narrated her encounter with Lin Ruoxi at the office, and how she witnessed the scene while she was about to leave.
“After I took it I didn’t even have the courage to see it again. I really wanted to go in and asked her directly about it, but I didn’t know how to bring it up. I would be furious with myself if I misunderstood her. I wouldn’t want to further burden her with this, but I just can’t let it go without clarifications,” Guo Xuehua explained.
Yang Chen handed the smartphone back to Guo Xuehua. Rearranging his thoughts, he then took a long sigh, before his frown disappeared and went back to his usual, jovial self. “I am sure the issue is with that Li Jianhe fellow. He was her senior back in her university days and they used to be pretty close.
I did misunderstand her once but she opened up to me about her personal conflicts and I chose to believe her. You can ask her about who she met the past afternoon when she comes back later. She has no reason to hide it because there really isn’t much to think about anyway.”
Guo Xuehua halfheartedly accepted. “So it’s a senior from her college years. If you know him, that’s still fine, I was just afraid that there might be someone out of the blue.”
“Mom! Look, when did you start having so little faith in me? I would never have allowed a character like this crawling into my territory! Besides, Lin Ruoxi isn’t the kind of person that would just casually fall for someone. She’s an innocent girl. He must have forced it upon her to hold her hands.” Yang Chen comforted.
Guo Xuehua rolled her eyes on his reasoning. “Alright, maybe I did overthink this. You best be right about it. I would also wish for Lin Ruoxi to be the innocent one in this.
I know you little brat might be a sin for all your women to bear, but you’re still my son. I will not allow your woman to be disloyal to you.”
Yang Chen was guilty from her remark, but felt reassured that his mother’s stubborn love for him exceeded his obscene disregard of societal rules.
After escorting her downstairs, Yang Chen returned to his room for a warm shower and a fresh pair of clothes. The past days of venturing into rainforests and secluded caverns left him soiled and grimy.
As night fell, Lin Ruoxi was finally done with her lengthy meeting and had returned home. Guo Xuehua, heeding Yang Chen’s advice did not mention the incident, and was all smiles as usual.
Noticing Yang Chen’s presence, Lin Ruoxi’s gaze was shimmered with slight complexity but ultimately culminated into a little smile as she engaged. “Let’s have dinner together, must be tough on you the past days.”
Yang Chen instantly noticed the split second of uneasiness in her eyes and was quickly reminded of the photo. His heart skipped a beat.
“Wifey, I got a little present for you.” Yang Chen forced down his anxiety. With a smile, he searched through his mustard-colored Sumeru sack and retrieved a violet-colored item slightly larger than his palm.
“Oh my, how pretty!”
It was Minjuan from the kitchen that first exclaimed.
Lin Ruoxi was fond of it as well. It was a pure, clear cut Amethyst rock, in the center were three glittering crystal stalagmites. Under the radiance of light, it illuminates the impeccable beauty of mother nature’s gifts.
“I found this in an underground mining cave by the Brazilian border. It’s not much, but its the real deal. I thought about you being in front of the computer all day and if you place this by your side, it might absorb some of that UV.” Yang Chen chuckled as he handed the crystal to Lin Ruoxi.
Leaning forward, Yang Chen sneakily whispered into her ear. “When I found it I quickly hid it from Zhiqing. I made sure I brought you a gift when I come home as compensation for leaving the house so long.”
Lin Ruoxi was filled with glee inside but felt like she shouldn’t let him off the hook so easily. After all, he was away on excursions with other women the whole time!
“Oh, that’s great, thanks. Loved it.” Just the thought of that kept her emotions at bay. Soullessly retrieving the gift, she placed it over by the coffee table, and went in to help with setting up the table for dinner.
Guo Xuehua frowned at her response, but still bit her tongue, whereas Wang Ma and Minjuan, on the other hand, were mesmerized by the amethyst crystal.
The only one left unamused was Lanlan, fumbling. “Bad uncle brought back a stone. What’s so good about a stone? A stone doesn’t taste good.”
Yang Chen chuckled albeit slightly bitterly, instantly catching the resemblance to Lin Ruoxi when they first met a year ago. The cold response and the impromptu reaction was as if she was a carbon copy.
Regardless, Yang Chen, known for being thick faced effortlessly brushed it off, and in a carefree manner grabbed onto a chicken thigh and started munching away.
Guo Xuehua noticed her own son unsympathetically started munching on food and was deep down rather disgruntled, but she knew full well there was nothing she could do instead. She then turned towards Lin Ruoxi who was serving dishes from the kitchen. She was visibly shaken.