The reflective river Seine appeared as peaceful as ever. By the shore lay a few large London Platanus trees. The leaves of green and yellow were swept up and carried by the wind.
It was common for this tree species to survive through winter, after which it would slowly lose its strength in spring before withering.
At present, a few of the yellowed leaves had fallen. They floated downwards slowly before finally arriving at the railing by the river.
Yang Chen gazed upon the leaves landing on the black muddy land in front of his toes absentmindedly. Time seemed to have stood still, for each second felt like a passing hour. It felt like forever, or just a few seconds at the same time. All he knew was his mind had gone completely blank for a moment. After a while, he turned his head to look at Lin Ruoxi’s dull expression before forcing a smile. “So you know about her already,” he said.
“Are you now wishing that I didn’t?”
“Actually, I don’t have to feel surprised. The big mouth Christen must’ve told you about her, didn’t she?” Yang Chen let out a bitter smile.
“She told me a thing or two, but I want to hear it from you in person. Of course, you may refuse to do so,” Lin Ruoxi replied.
“There’s no reason for me to hide it from you. Regardless if you know about it or not, it is a period of my past which exists. It’s just like many would feel ashamed when looking back at the childish acts they had done when young, but the past is still true. One may try his best to forget, but there’ll always be a person out there who remembers it,” Yang Chen said with a vague smile, “Of course, the matters between Seventeen and I weren’t just childish acts, and I have never intended to forget about her… Despite that, I’m really glad that you found out about Seventeen from Christen. At the very least, it means you’re willing to chat with her privately for me.”
Lin Ruoxi remained expressionless. Silently staring at Yang Chen, she asked softly, “Do you still love her?”
Yang Chen shook his head. Staring right into her eyes, he replied, “Love? I’m not sure. We had known each other since we were kids. In the 21 years before I returned to China, she had always meant the world to me. She wasn’t my friend, because we had a much deeper connection than just friends. We needed each other to live. She wasn’t my girlfriend, because we had never dated before; there wasn’t even a gift from either of us. She also wasn’t my lover, as she had never listened to me, otherwise she wouldn’t have left my side recklessly back then… She… was that special…”
Lin Ruoxi listened to him quietly. For unknown reasons, when Lin Ruoxi noticed the agony hidden in Yang Chen’s smile, she felt an intense heartache as well, as if her heart was being stabbed repeatedly. However, Lin Ruoxi wasn’t able to tell if it was because of him or herself.
“You asked me if I still loved her. I don’t know how to answer you. I’ve never said, ‘I love you,’ to Seventeen before. I’ve spoken less love to her than you. But having said all that, I felt that she was still the other half of my world to me. When she was together with me, even when I knew that my world was in the dark, I would feel in peace somehow…
“This is how I felt for her. Does this qualify as an answer?” Yang Chen asked with a smile.
Lin Ruoxi didn’t answer his question. Instead, she asked, “Christen said that I look really similar to Seventeen. Is it true?”
“It is. Your aura and the expression in your eyes look like hers, a lot, actually. But Seventeen wasn’t as beautiful as you are… I believe Christen has only seen her once. They met by coincidence in America, so she doesn’t know much about Seventeen. Ignore her garbage,” Yang Chen said.
Lin Ruoxi held the railing in front using her slender arms. She couldn’t help but shiver a little. She calmed herself down before asking, “In your eyes, am I a replacement to Seventeen?”
Lin Ruoxi looked like she had completely depleted her energy after asking that question. But she forced herself to stand upright in resolution, staring right at Yang Chen’s eyes.
Yang Chen suddenly recalled something. He thought of the day when he went to Yoo Yeonhee’s concert where Lin Ruoxi had spoken something strange at the backstage…
In your eyes, I’m nothing more than a replacement, am I not?
That’s it! She was aware of Seventeen’s existence at that time, and even knew that they looked similar! So that was why she said it so suddenly! Yang Chen thought.
Yang Chen found it really laughable. He laughed so hard that he almost teared up. He sighed, “No wonder you asked me if you were nothing more than a ‘replacement’ out of the blue back then. Babe Ruoxi, please don’t overthink. You are you, and Seventeen is Seventeen. To me, Seventeen is an unforgettable memory, but you’re my wife now.
“If I had indeed seen you as Seventeen’s replacement, I wouldn’t have spent so much effort in hopes of getting accepted by you. Simply put, if you were just a replacement, why would I care so much about your feeligns?”
Lin Ruoxi stared at Yang Chen for a while before a strange faint smile surfaced on the corners of her lips. “Back then at the cafe, I made you marry me. You rejected me, but soon accepted readily after stopping me from jumping off the building… At that time, I would’ve guessed that you’d have made the connection between Seventeen and I, thus the abrupt change. Am I right?”
Yang Chen couldn’t understand why Lin Ruoxi suddenly mentioned about the incident so long ago. It was indeed because of the glance Lin Ruoxi darted before jumping, which Yang Chen had clearly witnessed, that reminded him of the resolute gaze Seventeen held when she decided to leave back then. He had to admit that if it wasn’t for the glance, Yang Chen certainly wouldn’t have accepted the marriage request so quickly, while all the other events wouldn’t have followed.
“Yeah. As I said, your gaze and aura are really similar to that of Seventeen.” Yang Chen nodded. “However, it doesn’t mean I see you as a replacement to her! Having been through so much together, I believe we’ve already proven our feelings for each other, haven’t we?”
Lin Ruoxi lowered her head and laughed. “So I conclude that it is Seventeen that I should thank. If I didn’t look so similar to her, I would’ve died back then after jumping off the building. Even if I didn’t, I would’ve been killed by that man together with Xu Zhihong. Everything I had would be taken away by force, and I might’ve become someone else’s toy already… I should really thank Seventeen, shouldn’t I?”
At last, crystal-like tears suddenly dropped from Lin Ruoxi’s eyes. They flowed down her face and fell on the grass uncontrollably.
Although she was trying her best to hide her emotions, the shivering of her body became more and more obvious.
Yang Chen was rather confused. He didn’t understand why Lin Ruoxi suddenly started crying. He initially thought his answers could grant her a peace of mind and solve the conflict between them, or even improve their relationship. Judging by the situation, the result seemed to have gone south!
“Lin Ruoxi, what happened to you? Weren’t we talking nicely?! Why are you crying?! I’ve said many times that you’re not just a replacement! You’re unique to me, you are my wife! Wh—why are you crying? Tell me!”
Yang Chen was frustrated when things went out of control. His tone had turned harsh. He even called Lin Ruoxi by her full name.
Lin Ruoxi, however, continued to lower her head in silence while tears fell like beads of a broken string.
If it wasn’t for the fear held by the people in the venue, and Sauron who was guarding behind them, Yang Chen might feel more gloomy than he already was.
Which man on Earth was willing to let others look at him make his wife cry?
Finally, Lin Ruoxi forced herself to stop tearing before raising her head, revealing her reddened eyes. Some of the light foundation on her face was washed away by her tears. The woman who had always behaved independent and tough was just like a wilted tulip, looking exceptionally charming and pitiful.
Yang Chen let out a sigh of relief. He tried his best to talk gently. “Ruoxi, what happened to you? I don’t know what I should do or say in times like this one.”
Lin Ruoxi’s red and watery eyes stared at Yang Chen’s face. Smiling, she said, “Christen said that Seventeen is the only woman with your child. Is it true?”
Yang Chen nodded his head reluctantly. Seventeen and the child in her womb will and always will bring about a wave of painful memories. He wouldn’t have lost all his intentions and awakened from bloodlust and desires if this woman and the unborn child didn’t die before him and fall from the cliff into the icy tides. After that, he returned to China alone and planned to live there for the rest of his life.
Lin Ruoxi’s smile became brighter when she realized Yang Chen’s dull-witted expression. “Then I’ll ask you one last question.”
“Al—alright…” Yang Chen seemed to have expected something. He started feeling deeply concerned.
Lin Ruoxi opened her mouth and said clearly, “If Seventeen and the child were alive and could give you a second chance, will you still allow me to be your wife?”
“Shut up!!!” Yang Chen suddenly shouted at the top of his lungs. His expression suddenly turned ferocious while his eyes which were gazing upon Lin Ruoxi became bloodshot.
“Seventeen… Seventeen and her child… are… no longer here,” Yang Chen said with his trembling voice. “There’s… there’s no need to consider such a question…”
Lin Ruoxi wasn’t afraid at all when Yang Chen appeared to fallen into a frenzy of rage. On the contrary, she smiled relaxedly and said softly, “I knew this would be the case… Although you said that I’m not a replacement of Seventeen, the truth is, that is your subconscious thought since the moment you accepted to marry me.
“In your heart, you have never truly separated me with the real Seventeen. If it wasn’t for Seventeen, I wouldn’t be standing here as your wife.”