Lin Haihai bade him farewell with a smile. “My apologies. I’m here to meet with a friend. Please excuse me!” After a pause, she turned to ask him, “Are you the owner of the tavern?”
The man huffed out a laugh. It turned out she was no different from any other women. “That’s right. I own this place.”
“Ah, nice to meet you then!” She added him to her mental list of rich people. She would have to remember who they were when she was raising funds for her clinics. Thinking of her future plan made her eyes twinkle.
The brilliance of her delight captivated him for a moment. There was something different about her, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
“Um, would you please call the clerk up for me?” Lin Haihai asked, a little embarrassed. “I don’t know which booth my friend is waiting in!”
“What’s the name of your friend?” Only the rich would come to the River View Tavern. If her friend could afford a booth, they must be someone special.
The man paused. She was the guest Brother Zhou invited today? He took a closer look at Lin Haihai. She was dressed in plain peasant clothes with her hair casually tied to the back. She wore no makeup, and there was no fragrance of incense on her. Instead, she smelled faintly of medicine. Was there someone sick in her family?
Other than her elegant and delicate features, she seemed just like a regular woman. The only thing different about her was her grace and her faint calm smile. Nevertheless, she looked personable when she smiled, approachable. Was someone like her truly worthy of Brother Zhou’s attention?
“Follow me!” the man said with an impassive look on his face before turning around to make for a narrow but intricate hallway. Lin Haihai followed after him and stopped when the man halted before a wooden door etched with patterns of chrysanthemum.
Lin Haihai looked up at the plaque. The wild cursive read “Chrysanthemum Booth”. The handwriting held tremendous power. The strokes were wild but serene, and sharp in its serenity. The combination of conflicting features was a delight to behold. It was as if the characters written were meant to be this free. Lin Haihai applauded the work inwardly, her eyes shining with appreciation.
The look on her face struck a chord in the man’s heart. Her understanding smile… It’s like she knows the thoughts I’ve kept deep in my heart!
The sturdy door was pushed open. Zhou Junpeng, who had been watching the lively street through the window, turned around with a wide smile. He was surprised when he saw the man, but then he laughed. “Brother Nangong, when did you come back?”
“Today,” the man said, his icy expression melting into a warm smile. “I heard the clerks said that Brother Zhou would be having lunch with an honored guest in the Chrysanthemum Booth. I came to take a look!”
Lin Haihai popped out from behind the man. Zhou Junpeng visibly brightened and said, “You came! I thought you weren’t coming!”
Lin Haihai smiled. “Of course I would come. I wouldn’t say no to the delightful food at the River View Tavern if someone is paying for me!”
She sat down by the window without being told. Zhou Junpeng couldn’t contain the joy in his eyes. “Please have a seat, Brother Nangong.” He turned to Lin Haihai. “This is the owner of the River View Tavern, Nangong Zixuan.” Then he said to his friend, “This is a physician at the Linhai Hospital, Lin Haihai!”
Nangong Zixuan was surprised. So she’s the living bodhisattva lauded by the people of the capital? Derision and disgust rose in his heart. He hated those who rose to fame through lies and trickery. Linhai Hospital had only been open for a few months, and yet it’d become a hospital known to the entire city. He couldn’t think of any legitimate ways that could be achieved.
“We met earlier,” Lin Haihai explained.
“I wouldn’t trouble Brother Zhou further. I have matters about the tavern to attend to. Let’s meet up another day!”
Nangong Zixuan rose to his feet, his gaze never landing on Lin Haihai again. Lin Haihai didn’t care. She enjoyed the chrysanthemum tea in her cup with crinkling eyes. Then she noticed that she could see the tables downstairs through the window on the left. She was stunned.
She remembered the heated gaze she felt when she was having a meal with Xiao Ju and Tangtang on the first floor. Now that she thought about it, it must have been him. He had noticed her at that time. When did he develop feelings for her? Was it when she kissed him? Or was it when he saw her from here? Lin Haihai became lost in her thoughts, her chest tight with sorrow.
“Physician Lin? What’s wrong, Physician Lin?” Zhou Junpeng asked worriedly when he saw Lin Haihai’s pained expression.
Lin Haihai broke out of her trance and managed a smile. “Nothing. I was thinking about a patient. I don’t have a treatment plan for them yet, and it’s been bothering me.”
She was talking about herself.
“Physician Lin is indeed a living bodhisattva, thinking about the patients even when you’re eating. I wonder how genuine your worry is.” Nangong Zixuan’s tone was mocking. With all the people he’d met and interacted with before, he could tell that Lin Haihai wasn’t being truthful. She’s lying to create a good image of herself! Brother Zhou has been fooled this time!
Embarrassed, Zhou Junpeng hurriedly said, “Brother Nangong has always been straightforward. I hope Physician Lin won't mind. That’s not what he meant!”
He gave Nangong Zixuan a look, silently telling him to leave the booth, but Nangong Zixuan ignored his warning and huffed. “River View Tavern is a business, but I don’t welcome fraudulent people who deceive the general public like you. Please leave, Physician Lin!”
His obvious rejection of her presence confused Lin Haihai. She didn’t remember offending this rich man. If he didn’t welcome her, though, she would leave. She didn’t feel embarrassed, just perplexed. “Then I’ll take my leave,” she said to Zhou Junpeng as she stood up. “You should visit the hospital when you have the time. I’ll treat you with some good tea.”
Zhou Junpeng hurriedly stopped Lin Haihai. “Don’t go. Stay. He’s just joking.” Then he pulled Nangong Zixuan to the side, “What’s wrong with you today? Do you know how hard it is for me to invite you here?”
“She knows you’re the owner of a money exchange, doesn’t she?” Nangong Zixuan said coldly. “Then she’ll come to you even if you don’t invite her. I’ve seen many people myself. I know what kind of a woman she is. She may act prim and proper, but that’s just a facade to conceal her greed. If you don’t believe it, just wait for me to reveal her true nature to you!”
He looked at Zhou Junpeng with confidence, but Zhou Junpeng pushed him out of the booth with a long face and said, “I’m warning you not to start anything, or I wouldn’t forgive you for that!”
Nangong Zixuan paused. Has he truly fallen for the woman? He’s never talked to me in this tone! It’s a good thing that he’s fallen for someone, but the woman doesn’t deserve his affection! No, I can’t let Brother Zhou be fooled. I’ll find a way to expose her. It’s better not to alert her at the moment, though. I’ll listen to their conversation and identify the holes. Then I’ll go after her.
He cast an icy look at Lin Haihai and said, “You can’t see the forest when you’re among the trees. Whatever I say, you won’t believe me. Still, I have to tell you that the woman isn’t as pure as you believe her to be. It’s better that you keep some distance from her when you’re with her!”
He turned and walked away, leaving a perplexed Zhou Junpeng. Although Nangong Zixuan had always been aloof and cold, he never attacked people verbally. What was wrong with him today?
Lin Haihai gave Zhou Junpeng an incredulous look. “Has your friend misunderstood something about me?”
Zhou Junpeng smiled awkwardly to hide his regret. He’d finally had some time alone with her, and he wanted to leave her with a good impression. He didn’t expect things to turn out this way. Given what he knew about Nangong, the man must be listening in on their conversation on the other side of the wall. He must have taken Physician Lin as a greedy woman who clung to the rich and powerful.
“He’s just cynical, and he complains when he sees things he doesn’t like. But he’s a good person, really!” Zhou Junpeng’s explanation didn’t really help. Lin Haihai picked up her cup of tea and huffed carelessly. She didn’t care how other people saw her. She enjoyed the fragrance of the chrysanthemum tea and savored it.
“What would you like to have?” Zhou Junpeng didn’t want to spoil the mood further, so he changed the subject. He grinned when he spoke, revealing his white teeth.
In truth, Zhou Junpeng was Lin Haihai’s type. He seemed gentle, but also spirited; mature, but there were glimpses of innocence. Li Junyue used to be like that. However, the air about Li Junyue had turned heavy after the years he spent as a member of Doctors without Borders. It seemed as if there was a mountain of concerns weighing him down constantly.
She knew he must have experienced many hardships over the years. Being a physician was the most difficult profession in the world. They must not make light of life, but at the same time they couldn’t care about it too much. Otherwise, they would come to a deadend with no way out.
If they cared too little, they would be disrespecting life; if they cared too much, they would lose sight of the true nature of life and death. Faced with the lives lost every day, they would then be unable to maintain their inner peace.
“I’m not a picky eater, but as a physician, I’ll advise everyone to keep a healthy diet. Vegetables and fruit are the best choice. Have some protein in moderation!” Lin Haihai was a doctor through and through, and she couldn’t break out of her habit as a doctor.
Zhou Junpeng chuckled. “Then I’ll follow the lead of my guest. It’s never unwise to listen to a physician!”
Lin Haihai smiled. She could sense a gaze of disdain fixed on her. Was it the owner of the River View Tavern? He seemed to dislike her greatly, but she didn’t remember doing anything to wrong him. In fact, she didn’t remember crossing paths with him at all. Whatever. She never dwelled on questions she didn’t have an answer to.
“What do you want to talk to me about?” Lin Haihai asked, remembering what Zhou Junpeng had said to her at the hospital.
“I heard you’ve bought all the abandoned hills of the Eastern Mountain to plant herbs. Is that right?” Zhou Junpeng asked nonchalantly as he filled Lin Haihai’s cup.
“That’s right,” Lin Haihai said in a pitiful tone, but she was smiling. “That’s why half of my savings is gone!”
“Money is extraneous to life. Physician Lin must be having a laugh.” Zhou Junpeng knew she was joking. If she truly cared about money that much, she wouldn’t have treated her patients and prescribed them medicines for free. She had been helping a large number of impoverished people. It was no exaggeration for the people to call her a living bodhisattva.
Nangong Zixuan, who had been eavesdropping next door, couldn’t contain his disdain. Lin Haihai heard his scoff clearly, which filled her with confusion and disappointment. She had thought that Nangong Zixuan would be a straightforward and magnanimous man, but instead, he turned out to be someone who jumped to conclusions and refused to change his mind. How disappointing!
He must have put up those paintings to create a scholarly image. People like him wouldn’t be interested in charity work. Besides, he harbored resentment and biases against her, and would naturally never believe in her plan. Instead, he would see her as a conwoman trying to scam him.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
This is what we in the business call paranoia. Jumping to conclusions much my guy?