The limousine arrived before a courtyard surrounded by four houses, which had clearly been renovated.
The few people alighted the limousine.
Suffering from a huge blow, Ning Xiaoruan led the way. He only murmured an acknowledgement when he heard the door guards' greetings.
The two door guards then greeted Shen Zhining, “Good afternoon, Young Master Shen!”
Shen Zhining nodded and brought Sheng Jiaoyang in with him.
The door guards had never seen Sheng Jiaoyang before and were quietly studying her. They were clearly curious as Young Master Shen had never brought a girl back before.
Reaching the entrance of the hall, one could vaguely hear the voices and laughter coming from within. By the sound of it, there seemed to be several people in the hall.
Ning Xiaoruan turned back and took a glance at the two behind him before entering the hall.
“I’m back!” Knowing that Ning Xiaoruan went to pick someone up, the people in the hall had their eyes fixated at the entrance when they saw him entering the hall.
Shen Zhining held onto Sheng Jiaoyang’s hand. It was silent when they entered the room.
The identity of Shen Zhining’s girlfriend was no longer a secret to those present in the hall. But other than Ning Xiaoruan, his parents were the sole few who had met her in person.
“Zhining, she is your girlfriend?” If one were to consider their family tree, the person who had just spoken was Shen Zhining’s extended uncle, Uncle Ning.
Shen Zhining scanned the room before looking at Sheng Jiaoyang and said, “You can say that.”
“Huh?” Uncle Ning and the others in the hall were perplexed.
Sheng Jiaoyang couldn’t help but look at Shen Zhining. She felt relieved when she saw the tenderness in his gaze.
“Let me formally introduce to everyone. The woman next to me is my fiancée,” said Shen Zhining, “I believe every one of you already knows her identity.”
There was an underlying overtone to his latter part of the sentence.
“Ahem, Zhining, my sight is failing me. Bring that child over to let me have a look.” A fashionable old lady sitting at one of the two main seats in the hall waved. She had a wine-red felt hat on her head and wore a pair of studious reading glasses.
Her affectionate tone gave one a favourable impression.
On the main seat, Grandfather Ning only studied Sheng Jiaoyang.
“Child, come here. Let Granny have a good look at you,” As Sheng Jiaoyang closed the distance, Grandmother Ning stretched out her hand.
Sheng Jiaoyang complied. Holding the old lady’s hand, she said with grace, “Granny, Gramps, I am Xu Jiaojiao.”
She was more used to calling her maternal grandparents ‘Grandfather’ and ‘Grandmother’. But now, she was at the Ning household. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Since the old lady already addressed herself as Granny, Sheng Jiaoyang naturally greeted her with the same term.
Stroking Sheng Jiaoyang’s fair and supple little hand, Grandmother Ning wore a smile on her face as she studied the former carefully. "You are a beautiful child, and tall, but just a little too skinny.”
“Mother, Jiaojiao is a supermodel and had just come back after walking at an international fashion show,” Mrs Ning, Ning Xiaoruan’s mother, helped to put in a word.
Supermodels were usually thin. In particular, a stringent criterion had to be met in order to be selected to walk on the international stage. One’s height should correspond to their weight and cannot exceed that by even a tiny ounce.
Grandmother Ning immediately had a pained expression. She lightly patted the back of Sheng Jiaoyang’s hand and said, “My dear child, don’t ever be a supermodel again. Eat more. You are too thin, how would this do?”
Sitting next to him, Uncle Ning’s wife, Aunt Ning, covered her mouth and teased, “She’s not even part of the family yet and Aunt is already heartbroken. But Aunt, asking Jiaojiao to put on weight would clash with her work. Don’t underestimate Jiaojiao because of her young age; she’s amazing. She’s a celebrity who has appeared in movies and drama series. In order to look good on the screen, celebrities must not put on weight.”
Grandmother Ning furrowed her brows and shook her head successively, “That won’t do. How can you ignore your health just to look good!”
Grandmother Ning paused and looked at Sheng Jiaoyang before she tried to persuade the latter in earnest. “My good child, our Zhining makes a lot of money. There is no need for you to work so hard. Just focus on your studies and after you graduate, you can stay home, be happy and carefree and assist Zhining and nurture your children.”
Grandmother Ning said it out of a pure heart and looked as though she was pained over Sheng Jiaoyang’s ‘misfortune’. However, Sheng Jiaoyang didn’t feel too comfortable hearing the overtone in Grandmother Ning’s words. But since Grandmother Ning said it with a good intention, she couldn’t refute.
“Granny,” Shen Zhining voiced out, “I am looking for a wife that is on the same level as me, so we can relate to each other. I want someone I can treat with equal respect, and not just a pretty vase that I can keep at home. I will respect whatever decisions Jiaojiao makes.”
Sheng Jiaoyang turned to look at Shen Zhining, her eyes shining bright and the corners of her lips lifted into a smile.
Shen Zhining returned her gaze and answered. "I will not restrict you from doing anything in the name of love.” Except for one thing, and that is to never leave me. Shen Zhining silently added in his heart.
The room went silent. This was the first time Shen Zhining had shown any form of affection in front of them; the first time he decisively defended a girl with resoluteness, and the first time they felt he was acting more human.
“Ahem,” Grandfather Ning coughed as though he was clearing his throat. “You guys came back just in time for lunch. Let’s go eat.”
The congealed atmosphere was broken by Grandfather Ning’s words and everyone headed for the dining room.
Naturally, Sheng Jiaoyang sat next to Shen Zhining.
Everyone in the room, except the couple, exchanged gazes with each other when they saw Shen Zhining casually helping to fill up Sheng Jiaoyang’s plate. Even Ning Xiaoruan’s parents were surprised. The last time they had seen Shen Zhining and Sheng Jiaoyang, they weren’t as intimate and didn’t elude a sense of profound affection for each other. But now, their tacit understanding and love for each other were apparent to all.
The two Ning elders on the main seats exchanged gazes as well. They felt relieved but were worried at the same time.
This grandson of ours has always been a worrisome one since young. But his paternal grandparents are still around and it isn’t convenient for us to intervene. Who would have expected that he would become more worrisome the older he got? His temperament is nothing like anyone in the family. He may be talking or smiling, but one can feel his indifference towards the other party. He keeps a distance from people. It’s as if he’s incompatible with the rest of the world.
Well, great! He is now like a normal guy who fell in love and revolves around the person that he likes. However, this wasn’t what they wanted to see. It’s okay for him to be in a relationship but how can he already have his heart set on this girl and wants to marry her? It is as though someone has cast voodoo on him to revolve around this girl. How can this do!
Perhaps Sheng Zhining had overloaded Sheng Jiaoyang’s plate with too much food, Sheng Jiaoyang ate till she felt bloated.
She looked at Shen Zhining, wanting to speak but stopped on second thought, her brows slightly furrowed together from time to show her struggles.
Shen Zhining noticed her reactions instantaneously. He pulled Sheng Jiaoyang up and said to the two elders, “Jiaojiao has been suffering from indigestion recently. I will take her out for a walk.”
What could the others say? No? No one wanted to be the bad person here.
The room fell into a silence as they watched the two, who were compatible even in their heights, exit the door, hands interlocked.
“I have never seen Zhining treating and caring for someone so tenderly. It seems that Zhining is really decided this time,” Sensing the awkward atmosphere, Mrs Ning made a sentimental remark in an attempt to dissolve the gloomy atmosphere.
“I’ve never thought that Zhining is actually pretty good at taking care of others. Seeing their love for each other, I am curious as to how they met and eventually got together. From what I know, Zhining’s girlfriend is only eighteen this year and still in school,” Aunt Ning remarked as though she didn’t mean anything.
Uncle Ning flashed a knowing smile and said half-teasingly and half-seriously, “Zhining probably enjoys the age gap between them. An age gap of seven or eight years could be a hierarchical level difference in some families.”
Aunt Ning then went along with him and let out a chuckle.
“Cousin likes Xu Jiaojiao for her. What age gap are you talking about? There are so many women out there who are much younger than him, but why doesn’t he like them and only likes Xu Jiaojiao? There’s no other reason other than true love!” Ning Xiaoruan retorted.
Though he was bullied by the couple when they were en route home and originally didn’t want to speak up for them, Ning Xiaoruan was disgusted by the remarks made by his uncle and aunt - it was atrocious.
What do they mean by ‘enjoys the age gap?’ What do they mean by ‘An age gap of seven or eight years could be a hierarchical level difference in some families?’ Even I can hear the underlying overtone in their words. They are instigating that Cousin is a pedophile.
Mrs Ning nodded and said to the two elders, “They were already together when we went over previously. Though they had some arguments in between, their relationship seemed to have progressed. Though Jiaojiao isn’t from a very well-to-do family, she has a lot of merits. Otherwise, someone with high standards like Zhining wouldn’t have fallen in love with her.”
Grandfather Ning finally spoke, “She does look pretty demure and graceful.”
“Ever since we’ve met, she has never shown her anxiety and has good etiquette in every scenario,” Mrs Ning went with the flow and continued.
“Of course, she is so well known at such a young age and even managed to capture Zhining’s heart. She is amazing indeed. I saw many online netizens complimenting her for her great acting skills, she could play any character at will.” Aunt Ning followed suit. But, though she was clearly giving compliments, it felt amiss.
Comparing carefully, one could sense what felt amiss.
When Mrs Ning complimented Sheng Jiaoyang, she was complimenting the latter on her etiquette. Meanwhile, Aunt Ning’s compliments would instigate others to think of Sheng Jiaoyang in a negative manner. Those who didn’t know Sheng Jiaoyang well enough would only think that she was a great seductress. And finally, Aunt Ning complimented Sheng Jiaoyang for her great acting skills; wasn’t that trying to lead the two elders into thinking that Sheng Jiaoyang was just putting on a facade in front of them?
“Xu Jiaojiao treats everything she does seriously. She has great acting skills because she placed much effort into studying it. Moreover, she can paint, play the piano and knows at least three foreign languages. Being around her puts you in a good mood. It’s natural that Cousin would like her,” defended Ning Xiaoruan.
Uncle Ning looked at Ning Xiaoruan with a profound smile. “Xiaoruan sure knows a lot.”
Of course! I was once Xu Jiaojiao’s personal assistant! Ning Xiaoruan pushed the spectacles frame on the bridge of his nose, not voicing out his internal thoughts.
“I think both of them look compatible. It’s so rare for Zhining to find someone that he likes, we should be happy for him,” Father Ning expressed his stand.
“We shall see,” Grandfather Ning muttered to himself.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
TL: Cosy | Editor: Grace | TLC: Grace