“Cousin, did she accept your apology?” Yun Qian was just about to enter her room to rest when she saw Ning Xiaoruan standing in the hallway.
Ning Xiaoruan replied listlessly, “I don’t know.”
Seeing the credit card in his hand, a strange expression appeared on Yun Qian’s face. “You weren’t thinking of gifting the card as an apology, right?”
“I wasn’t. I only asked her what she liked so that I could go buy it.”
Her lips twitched. Not even a drunk would be that blunt. “What did she say?”
“She said she liked my sister, and isn’t that you? How could I dare to buy you? That’s a sky-high price, I…”
“Wait!” Yun Qian stopped him by raising her hand. “Tell me her exact words.”
Ning Xiaoruan blinked. What’s with that face, Cousin? Pulled a muscle? But, he still did what she’d asked and repeated Xu Jiaojiao’s words.
“Pfft! Hahaha…” Yun Qian lost all of her virtuous demeanor as she held her stomach with a hand and banged the wall with the other. She couldn’t stop laughing.
“What’s going on?” The Ning couple had heard her unrestrained laughter before they’d arrived, yet even now, she was still laughing.
“I don’t know.” Ning Xiaoruan shrugged.
The girl held her stomach while laughing through gasps. “Cousin just went to apologize to Xu Jiaojiao. He asked her what she liked so he could go buy it. Then, she answered with ‘Like your sister’. Haha, this guy thinks she really likes his sister. And, he just told me that he can’t afford me. Ah, I can’t take it! I’m going to laugh again!” The girl laughed all the way to her bedroom.
Hearing this, the corner of the Ning couple’s lips also raised slightly. This brat must be a fake son!
“If I knew that this would happen, I wouldn’t have sent you abroad to study. All that studying got to your head,” Mister Ning lamented.
“How?! I graduated without a hitch, while some classmates still haven’t!” Ning Xiaoruan said sourly.
“You didn’t learn any of their craftiness and studied until you lost your senses. How will you take over your father’s business like this? If we’re gone, won’t those geezers finish you off?” The more he said, the more annoyed he became. Seeing her son standing dumbly, Madam Ning pulled her husband to their room.
Ning Xiaoruan stared blankly as his parents entered their room. He could still hear them talking before they closed the door.
“Wife, should we have another child?”
“When we get back, we should go get checked out.”
What just happened? Ning Xiaoruan ran up the stairs in search of that self-proclaimed intelligent cousin of his.
Shen Zhining heard what had transpired, then gazed silently at Ning Xiaoruan.
What? What? Ning Xiaoruan’s heart did flips under his gaze. His cousin’s face conveyed serious pondering whether he should save him.
“Cousin, what are you thinking about?” Ning Xiaoruan asked nervously.
“I’m wondering if there’s a possibility of giving you a brain transplant.”
“…” Ning Xiaoruan felt a blade run through his heart.
“You don’t need to write a report.”
“Really?” Ning Xiaoruan’s eyes lit up. Did his cousin grow a conscience and decide to treat him well?
Shen Zhining got up to leave. “Keep up.”
“Oh.” Ning Xiaoruan followed at once.
Knock, knock, knock.
The repeated knocks caused Sheng Jiaoyang to grab her hair in annoyance. She held back her anger as she walked towards the door.
“What is it now….” Seeing Shen Zhining at the door, she promptly shut up.
“He’ll follow you from now on.” Shen Zhining moved to the side, making way for Ning Xiaoruan.
“What?” Sheng Jiaoyang hoped that she’d misheard.
“He’ll be your assistant for this year. Give him errands.”
Ning Xiaoruan was stupefied. “Uh, Cousin?”
“Can I refuse?” Sheng Jiaoyang blinked, giving her best to her cute act in the hopes that Shen Zhining would take back those scary words.
“Nope!” Shen Zhining coldly spat.
Ning Xiaoruan’s pride felt pricked. “Make no mistake, Xu Jiaojiao. A valedictorian like me is wasted on you. How can you still refuse?!”
“What can a valedictorian like you do? Bark orders?” Sheng Jiaoyang raised her chin as she spoke those haughty words.
She drives me crazy! Ning Xiaoruan bared his teeth.
Shen Zhining ignored Ning Xiaoruan’s expression and looked over the credit card in his hand. “If you don’t want to, then don’t expect to have your account unfrozen. I believe your parents will approve of my decision.”
Then, Shen Zhining went upstairs.
Feeling abandoned, Ning Xiaoruan threw a mournful glare at Shen Jiaoyang standing with her hands crossed under her chest. “It’s all your fault for saying that!”
“What did I say?” She quirked an eyebrow.
“You said you liked my sister. Instead of thinking you’re strange, I was blamed. Yun Qian couldn’t stop laughing when she heard it. My parents talked about having another child. And, my cousin even said that I’ll be your assistant. What devious power do your words have?” Ning Xiaoruan said aggrievedly.
Sheng Jiaoyang burst out laughing. Idiot Ning is Idiot Ning for a reason, and an accomplished one at that!
“Why are you also laughing?” Ning Xiaoruan just didn’t understand.
Her laughter didn’t die out, and she repeatedly waved her hand. “Go to sleep. In the future, when I call for you to come to class, you’ll know then.”
After saying all that, she closed the door in his face.
Thanks to Ning Xiaoruan’s joke, Sheng Jiaoyang’s mood turned for the better, and she went to finish her painting. However, she didn't just finish it, but painted another one in a completely different style.
The two paintings were related to the sea. The first was painted using marvellous skills, with vibrant and rich colours. It seemed to have the feeling of a deep and dangerous story buried within. A steamship drifted in the waves, with a charming and outstanding prince standing on its deck. The sea appeared to form a beautiful face in the distance. Her long hair resembled kelp, with a silver fishtail behind her peeking out of the water. This was a scene out of a fairytale, if you ignored the faded fishnet beneath the steamship.
The second painting was completely different. It had a dark blue background, with waving kelp trapping a girl. Her eyes were half-closed, with small bubbles rising from her mouth. She struggled at first, but then her eyes looked to the left where she saw a vague figure resembling a fish drawing nearer. It was like the dawn hacking at the darkness of the sea, bringing with it the hope of life.
The more one looked, the more the viewer felt fear from this dark scene. The magnificent figure pierced the negative feelings, evoking a sense of hope and life. The hope of turning misfortune into a blessing.
Sheng Jiaoyang stood before the paintings, staring in silence for a while, then took a picture of the second painting with her phone, sending it to Gu Zhou. She wasn’t ready to part with the first painting. She wanted to keep it as a warning to herself, that no matter the time or place, to never let her guard down. Even if the one across from her was a handsome man.
Her message contained a picture and two simple words: You want?
Not long after, she received an even shorter reply: Yes.
The next day, she called for Felix to pack the second painting and deliver it to a place chosen by Gu Zhou.
1. Generally speaking, ‘your sister’ is internet slang that’s usually used to emphasize a certain word spoken by the interlocutor, and the word ‘your sister’ is added after it to express contempt, disdain, ridicule, etc. ‘Your sister’ is replaced by an original objectionable character in situations where it isn’t convenient to directly swear.
TL: Kiki | Editor: Purpledragon | TLC: Grace