Chapter 186 - New Year’s Present

As Sheng Jiaoyang returned backstage, she saw a serious-looking Lin Yu engaged in a conversation with the student in charge of wardrobe. As she closed the distance, she heard Lin Yu asking him if he’d left the room when someone came to collect their clothes.

"What happened?" She recalled that a girl named Xiaoqi should be the one doing the curtain call after her performance.

Upon seeing her, the student in charge of wardrobe said thankfully, "Jiaojiao, luckily, you changed into your own gown."

Sheng Jiaoyang raised an eyebrow slightly. "There’s something wrong with the gown?"

"Someone tampered with the straps," Lin Yu answered.

"Straps? It was fine when I tried it on."

"I can assure you that the gown was perfectly fine when Jiaojiao tried on it. I checked it before hanging it back in its original position," the guy swore.

"I didn't wear that gown. So, how did you guys find out that the straps were tampered with? Someone wore it?" After saying that, a sudden thought occurred to Sheng Jiaoyang. "Xiaoqi wore that gown?"

"Yes." Lin Yu confirmed her guess.

"So, she didn't come out to do the curtain call because there was something wrong with her gown. Where is she now?"

"She's still crying in the dressing room."

"Why is she crying? She can just change back into her own dress." Sheng Jiaoyang found it strange.

An embarrassed look appeared on both their faces as the student in charge of wardrobe explained, "The gown was made to fit your height. Xiaoqi is shorter than you. When she was climbing the stage in that gown, she accidentally stepped on the hem and the straps broke. The entire gown dropped to the floor."

Most importantly, there were many people backstage waiting for their turn to go on stage. In essence, Xiaoqi was forced to put on an involuntary strip show in front of everyone. This would obviously result in Xiaoqi suffering from psychological trauma.

Technically, the straps of a back-strapped gown should have high tenacity. A situation where the straps broke just because the hem was stepped on shouldn’t have happened, but it did. There was definitely something fishy here. The dress was retrieved and indeed, the problem was realised in one glance. There were cuts on the ends of the broken straps.

"Looks like someone wanted me to embarrass myself on stage." Sheng Jiaoyang's expression turned cold.

"Luckily, Xiaoqi hadn't appeared on stage yet or the party would be ruined because of her," the student said with a sigh of relief.

"But if I had changed into this gown today, I would be the one implicated. Lin Yu, this person not only destroyed the gown, but his or her ultimate aim is to damage my reputation. You have to help me find this person or I’ll feel uneasy knowing that someone harbors such malicious intent towards me."

"Okay, I’ll definitely find this person!” Lin Yu promised.

Sheng Jiaoyang nodded and went back to her little dressing room to change and remove her makeup.

Knock knock knock!

"What's…." Pulling the door open, Sheng Jiaoyang altered what she wanted to say when she saw Shen Zhining standing at the door. "Why are you in the backstage area?"

Shen Zhining sized her up. "Since you’re done changing, let's go."

"Where are we going?"

"You'll know when we get there."

Sheng Jiaoyang was a little hesitant. She glanced at the female bodyguard standing by the door before feeling slightly relieved.

They left the backstage area under the eyes of the other students.

"Is that Xu Jiaojiao's boyfriend?"

"Wasn't the one who came to the rehearsal yesterday Xu Jiaojiao's boyfriend?"

Everyone was whispering.

"Why were you sitting in the audience?" Sheng Jiaoyang turned and asked Shen Zhining as soon as she was in the car.

"To watch you."

Sheng Jiaoyang looked ahead and zipped her mouth close. She stopped herself from making any more remarks lest he says something more shameless.

Shen Zhining leaned close to her. "Are you avoiding me?"

He saw through me? Sheng Jiaoyang shuddered but kept a composed countenance. "No."

"No?" His gaze was so focused that he caught the slightest trembling of her eyelashes.

Sheng Jiaoyang felt uneasy every time he responded with another question. It felt as though he’d seen through her and made her feel especially oppressed. He bullied and oppressed me when I was still a little child, why do I have to be afraid now?

All of a sudden, the memories of last night's intimacy came back to her mind. Her expression stiffened and she felt like a fish out of water.

Demon King Shen could devour others now…

"Yes, I’m avoiding you." Sheng Jiaoyang decided to change tactics.

"Stop the car. You guys, get off."

Sheng Jiaoyang was stunned. Why isn’t he playing logically? She was initially waiting for him to ask how long she planned to avoid him. Then, she could complain a little and use it to her advantage to step back.

The car pulled over and the driver and the bodyguards got out.

Shen Zhining turned and looked at her.

What’s he trying to do this time? Sheng Jiaoyang looked at him warily, her hand already on the door handle.

Shen Zhining's gaze lightly swept over her hand on the handle, which was ready to open the door at any moment, and chuckled. Like a lion hunting in his territory, he leaned towards her deceptively.

"Was it because of last night?"

Sheng Jiaoyang bit down on her lips, her voice stained with tinges of grievances. "You frightened me last night."

Shen Zhining lifted his hand and caressed her face. "What are you afraid of?"

"I’ll take responsibility."

The corners of Sheng Jiaoyang's lips twitched. She muttered in a tiny voice, "I’m still a child. To think that you could actually do that."

Shen Zhining chuckled and lifted her chin with his fingers as he asked with interest, "Do you think that you’re still a child?"

"I…" Sheng Jiaoyang was speechless. "I'm underaged!" This was the only thing she could use as an excuse.

Shen Zhining nodded, showing his approval.

Sheng Jiaoyang was elated until he suddenly leaned closer and whispered into her ear, "It's almost your birthday."

Instantly, she felt as though she was struck by lightning and froze.

Right, Xu Jiaojiao's eighteenth birthday was approaching. She could only use her age as an excuse until her birthday.

"I," Sheng Jiaoyang took a deep breath and continued, "will only sleep with my husband."

"Other than me, who else would be your husband?"

How…shameless! Sheng Jiaoyang glared at him.

"Or, are you hoping that your future husband will be another man? For example…” His tone was stained with streaks of threat. "Lin Yan."

Sheng Jiaoyang felt that her words were stuck in her throat. She didn't have the guts to answer such a question.

She rolled her eyes. "I’m afraid that your taste will change and that you’ll fall in love with someone else."

"So, you do get worried."

"Of course, I do. See, there are so many people who like you. Isn't Daisy still waiting for you? She can even do something like seducing you to bed. What if you fall for her tricks someday? Also…ummh…"

Shen Zhining swiftly and accurately obstructed her mouth from continuing its ceaseless nonsense.

When the driver and the bodyguards were called back, the atmosphere in the car felt extremely warm. The female bodyguard looked in the backseat as she boarded the car and saw her employer leaning against the headrest, her face flushed as she emanated a languid aura of femininity.

Then, the partition went up.

It was New Year's Eve tonight, and it would be a new year tomorrow.

The provincial TV station's New Year's Eve concert was being broadcast live on the oversized screen in the square. A line of male celebrities of various ages and charming features stood on the magnificent stage. Like brothers, they stood shoulder to shoulder, singing the theme song of the ace program which they were hosting.

"Woah, our dream gods are so handsome!" From time to time, the square resounded with the squeals of a few lovestruck women.

Handsome or not, the seven of them standing together provided an overwhelming amount of charisma. After getting out of the car, Sheng Jiaoyang couldn't help but raise her head and look at the big screen. She’d met all seven of them, and the one she was most familiar with was Gu Zhou.

"Is it that entertaining?" a voice asked next to her ear.

Sheng Jiaoyang turned and smiled at him. She didn't expect that he’d bring her to a place like this.

The large fountain in the square was surrounded by people crowding together in twos and threes. There were families and lovers, and some about to be lovers.

The fast rhythm and passionate singing reverberated in the ears of all present. At the same time, it was also accompanied by the frolicking and laughter of a few children. It was an extremely lively sight.

The trees in the square were decorated with small neon lights, the twinkling trees a sight to behold.

Seeing the smile on her face, Shen Zhining felt that every empty corner of his heart was filled with a strange emotion. Finally, there was something in his world for him to hold on to. He reached over and removed the hood of her down jacket before rubbing her head.

Sheng Jiaoyang hadn't expected him to make such a move and was stunned for a split second before she whined petulantly, "You messed up my hair."

"Don't worry. I won't abandon you." He then stroked her hair again.

"Hey, you were the one who messed it up, so how dare you abandon me? Hmph, I'm ignoring you!" Sheng Jiaoyang turned on her heel like a proud kitten, but an outstretched hand held onto her waist.

"What do you want for your New Year’s present?" Shen Zhining whispered in her ear.

"I don't need anything right now."

"You clearly need one thing."

Sheng Jiaoyang turned and looked at him in surprise. "How come I’m unaware then?"

He released a quiet chuckle, his eyes shining brightly like a starry night. "I see that you still need a bed warmer. I guess that I’ll reluctantly let you use me."

"…" How shameless!

Suddenly, a smile appeared on her face. It was a sweet smile that lifted her eyes into two crescent moons.

"I think that what I need the most is a sandbag. When I'm sad, I can punch it and I’ll become happier. When I'm happy, I can punch it and become even happier. If you’re willing to be used by me, then I’ll reluctantly accept."

Shen Zhining could no longer keep his smile. Does she think that she can beat him with those soft and furry paws?

"Let us countdown together!" The shouts from the concert emcees blared from the speakers.

"Ten!"

"Nine!"

Everyone in the square stopped to look at the big screen and collectively counted down the final three seconds of the year.

"Three!"

"Two!"

"One!"

Boom! The fountain spouted streaks of water with a halo, and colourful fireworks exploded in the sky.

The two of them stood facing each other, their reflections visible in their eyes.

"Zhining, Happy New Year!" Her voice drifted over amid the cacophony of cheers.

Shen Zhining pulled her into an embrace and whispered into her ear, "I’m willing to be anything that you want me to be, whether it be a heat pack or a sandbag, as long as you like it."

His words were like the first candy of the new year, so sweet that it made one feel that the year ahead would be a blissful one.

"Now, it's my turn for my New Year’s present."

"Huh?" Sheng Jiaoyang was stunned.

He looked at her, his gaze intense like a child who was desperate for candy. His eyes, as bright as the starry night sky, were filled with an irresistible longing as he slowly uttered two words, "Kiss me."

Such a beautiful backdrop was paired with a handsome man.

Unable to resist the temptation, Sheng Jiaoyang leaned in.

Under the twinkling tree, the cuddling and kissing young couple passed their first year together.

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Yuna's Thoughts

TL: Cosy | Editor: Purpledragon | TLC: Grace